Vermont teacher sends art supplies to every elementary student in town

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Every student at a Vermont elementary school received a special package in the mail this month: an emergency art kit of supplies to inspire creativity while away from school, with a note from their art teacher, “May you all find joy in drawing colorful pictures!”

Arista Alanis conceived and executed the effort, sending 173 art kits to all 223 Johnson Elementary School students.

“I wanted the students to have art materials, not only for the ‘Art for Remote Learning’ exercises, but also for a creative outlet during these difficult days of social distancing,” said Alanis, who is the school art teacher and the community arts coordinator for Vermont Studio Center in Johnson. “Creativity is one way to process all of these current challenges.”

Kits included loose-leaf paper for drawing, a pencil and colored pencils, an eraser and sharpener, a watercolor set, an oil and pastel set, thin markers, a carton of 24 crayons, an origami pack and more, according to a press release from the Vermont Studio Center.

The students were sent home with their sketchbooks when schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the official name of the disease related to the coronavirus that started to affect people at the end of 2019. But Alanis thought they could use more tools to engage in art projects during remote learning.

It was a community effort. The Vermont Studio Center, with support from Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, helped pay for postage. A grant from the Windham Foundation, an organization enhancing the cultural vitality of rural Vermont, covered the cost of supplies. Others helped procure mailing addresses and Alanis’ neighbor allowed her use of his heated garage to assemble the packages.

Students received their packages by the week of April 13. Since then Alanis has been receiving thank you notes and verbal thanks while attending school home room video meetings.

“The best is when I’m out taking my walk and I hear someone yelling ” Ms. Arista, thank you for the art supplies”!  Joy!  A moment of delight!” she wrote in an email.

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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