Linda Benningfield-Hashman – Cañon City, Colorado … Sixteen students at the Four Mile Adventist Christian School in Cañon City, Colorado, are celebrating and literally wearing their title of “Artist.” During every art class, students wear a name tag with their first name and the title “Artist” on the front and the meaning of their name on the back.

The nametags remind them that the words we speak about ourselves are important, and it is empowering to call themselves artists. The students are learning that art is not a competition but rather an expression of who they are and a picture of what they see and imagine. And they are learning the diversity in their styles and how to turn what might look like a mistake into another opportunity to create art, a happy accident.

Michelle Coe, Four Mile’s head teacher and principal, has been making sure the students have the direction and supplies they need to be artists. All types of art styles are being explored including mixed media, collage, narrative art, painting, drawing, and creating projects as gifts for others.

The grades range from third to eighth, and the ages from eight to thirteen. The older students have been gracious in assisting the younger ones when needed and learning to share their talents and help others to show theirs.

One project included creating a “gratitude box” to hold tags labeled with things for which they are thankful. They designed and created birthday cards and book markers to give as gifts. During one class the artists listened to a story about a guardian angel experience and embellished a narrative picture about the story.

As their fall project, they created a table centerpiece basket to take home for their Thanksgiving dinner. The basket included pieces of art about the history of Thanksgiving traditions and symbols, such as a bald eagle feather, pilgrim hat, turkey with feathers, pumpkin pie, football, Bible, American flag, corn, old truck with pumpkins, pinecones, and fall leaves.

The artists created the baskets from various mixed media sources, affixed them to floral picks, and arranged them into a basket with handles they beaded themselves. Each basket had a tag saying “hand crafted by” with their name. The students were excited to be able to create this and take it home to share with their families, and they learned a little more about why we celebrate Thanksgiving in America.

As their Christmas project, the artists are crafting ornaments and goodie bags for children whose parents are incarcerated in Fremont County, Colorado, partnering with the Cañon City Seventh-day Adventist Church and New Horizons Ministry in the Angel Tree Project.

The main objective in the school’s art classes this year is for students to recognize and use the unique talents God has gifted them with to encourage others, expand their knowledge about various art forms, and to understand that everyone is an artist in their own way. Each student is encouraged and guided toward creating pieces with a purpose as unique, interesting, and beautiful as they are.

—Linda Benningfield-Hashman is a member of the Cañon City Seventh-day Adventist Church. Photos supplied.