Central elementary art program’s new project is about ‘sharing the love’

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Birch tree paintings made by Central second graders hang in the Elkader Care Center and Kingston Court Assisted Living as part of the art program’s “sharing the love” project. The project will rotate art displays about every three weeks and feature artwork from different grades each time.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The Central elementary art program continues to promote, display and, in this case, “share the love,” through another art project led by teacher Carlyn Lechtenberg. A rotating display of artwork from grades kindergarten through sixth grade at Elkader Care Center and Kingston Court Assisted Living is evidence of her dedication to the arts. 


This project came about because Lechtenberg was looking for more options to spread Central art throughout the community. That’s when the idea of the nursing home dawned on her.


“The nursing home would be a perfect place to do an ongoing rotation, and I thought the residents and visitors would enjoy it year round, and they have so many different people in and out of there all the time,” Lechtenberg said. 


The idea also has some basis in Lechtenberg’s childhood. She recalled her nana, who was the director of nurses at a nursing home and was an “influential person” in her life. This gives nursing homes a special place in her heart, so any amount of extra joy this would bring residents, staff and visitors “is worth it,” she added.


Lechtenberg called the nursing home to gauge interest. She said the administrator she spoke with was pleasantly surprised and responded with an enthusiastic “absolutely,” adding that “the residents would love this.”


Care center staff member Kaitlyn Orr confirmed this, stating, “We agreed to do this because the residents enjoy seeing the younger generation’s artwork, creative minds and joy. Our residents have lived in local northeast Iowa, so we like to stay involved as much as we can.”


The first display features birch tree paintings by the second grade, but the intent is to create a rotating display of artwork and featured grades, which will be switched out about every three weeks. 


The hanging process is completely on Lechtenberg, who prepares all the pieces as one, large, hanging display to make the process “sleek and efficient for hanging” when she arrives at the nursing home. While the extra work can be quite demanding, Lechtenberg asserted it’s worth it.


“It all takes time, but it is the time I’m willing to put in to benefit my students,” she said. 


The project seems to be going over well, as Lechtenberg said the “activity director was complimenting the student talent and thought the pieces were beautiful and so nice to be hanging in there.” 


According to Orr, comments so far have included “Wow, this is very nice,” and “Who did all this? It looks great.” 


All feedback was positive and showed excitement from the residents and staff. 


“Some staff and residents have family members in the Central school system, so it’s always fun to share that artwork with everyone else when they may not have the opportunity if they didn’t live with other residents,” Orr said.


While part of this effort is about putting smiles on nursing home faces and boosting residents’ moods, for Lechtenberg, it’s also about celebrating the students, seeing how excited they get about their artwork and how proud they are when it is displayed. 


As Lechtenberg said, “They even like viewing it in our school hallways, so for it to be in another public setting is very exciting for them.”


“The kids work so hard that it’s nice to recognize their accomplishments, just as one would for athletics. To me, an art display or show is similar to the ‘big game’ for sports or a concert for music. They practice in the classroom and then get to perform through the displays,” Lechtenberg added. “No sense in creating beautiful artwork and not sharing it with the world. I also like my students to put great effort and pride into their pieces and know that it’s not all for nothing [and] we also build excitement and more interest for the arts.” 


It’s also about building community relationships, engaging in a positive way and seeing support for the arts flourish. It’s support Lechtenberg is “blown away” by. She noted how refreshing it is to see such a “positive outlook for the program.” 


This support also lets students know their work matters—that people care and find joy in viewing their work. It’s work that should come as a result of enjoying the process, rather than the result. 


After all, said Lechtenberg, art class “should not be a stressor or burden in their school day, but rather a sense of relief and outlet and safe space to relax and create.” 


No matter the skill level, art can be enjoyed by everyone, like the residents of the nursing home, who “were all smiles when the artwork was hung on the wall,” according to Orr.


Lechtenberg is happy to collaborate with the care/assisted living centers. She hopes “it brings them as much joy as it does” the art program. 


This likely won’t be the end of the art program’s efforts to “share the love,” as the “gears never stop turning” for new ideas, Lechtenberg quipped.

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