Mansonville Elementary cafeteria gets a colourful makeover

By Taylor McClure, Special to Brome County News

Tucked away on rue Marion –Atwell lies a small, yet very special, primary school known as Mansonville Elementary.
Recently, Mansonville Elementary School received a grant from the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) and its partner LEARN to bring an artist into the school to carry out an art project. The grant, called ArtistsInspire, provided students with the chance to experiment with their creativity with the help of a professional artist. With the cafeteria walls as their canvas, students worked together to create what can only be described as their very own masterpiece.
“The ArtistsInspire grant is a grant for English Schools, or minority schools, to work on projects to strengthen identity and encourage community participation,” explained Dan Aucoin, a cycle one teacher at the school for about ten years.
“It also exposes students to more outlets for their creativity,” added David Scott, Principal of Mansonville Elementary. “It introduces them to artistry and culture and gets them involved; they can take pride in what they are doing. They are proud of what they are making the room look like.”
After receiving the grant, it was decided to carry out a project where students would get to paint the cafeteria walls with the help of artist Adele Reeves. “I’ve been an artist my whole life,” said Reeves. “I was born into it.”
After working from her studio for many years, Reeves wanted to leave the feeling of isolation behind when it came to her career. “I’ve always worked with children but not so much in the last couple of years. The timing was perfect. I had done a community project this summer with parents and their children and then I got a call to do this. The grant is allowing me to carry out my work.”
While she is the professional artist, the project is all about the students. “That’s the point of this is that it’s student run. I am the artistic director but they are the artists,” added Reeves.
After deciding that the theme of the project would be cycles, Reeves sat down with students to discuss different examples of what cycles are. “We elaborated and spoke about the cycles of life, of light and day, of birth and death,” explained Reeves. “We then established where the true north was in the cafeteria so I got out my campus and we figured out which wall is our north sky. Then we knew the sun set to the west so we would have to paint the sun to the west of the north sky.” They also decided to represent the seasonal cycle.
With their theme set in stone, students started working with Reeves on the project just over a week ago. “The whole school had a chance to take part in the project,” said Shelley Judge, an aid for the newfour-year-old kindergarten class that was recently added at the school. “We each had our own section to do. All the brown dots on the bottom are all the four year olds.”
Parents and teaching staff also played a major role in the project. “There were parent volunteers and teachers here until late Friday night and back here early Saturday morning to prime the walls and to make sure everything was ready to go when the kids came in on Monday,” emphasized Scott. “We get so much support here its unreal. Without the full support of the teaching staff this doesn’t happen. We have received so many donations to do things with. A small school like this can’t survive without that support.”
“We try and instill community in our students and to be a part of something which has made a difference in our kids. This project speaks to how highly engaged they are,” said Scott. “Projects like this help us be more than just a school. You walk in and you get that feeling of community.”
“They always love coming to school because there’s always something going on here,” added Aucoin.
“As a small school, it’s important for us to have an identity and to have parents and kids be a part of that identity,” explained Scott.
After a week of working on the art project, the students of Mansonville Elementary School have given their cafeteria new life. “It’s amazing to see, very much,” said Reeves. “The size is really something and they all worked together despite the age differences. It’s been refreshing working with them and the staff; they all worked so well together.” Published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Brome County News.

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