Last Thursday, the preschool at Adat Shalom was transformed into an art gallery. Almost 250 attendees gathered at the Cheswick synagogue for the preschool’s annual dinner and art show. The entire focus of the evening was on the children and celebrating their artistic accomplishments.
Since the beginning of the school year, the 62 enrolled preschoolers, ranging in age from 15 months to pre-K, had been preparing diligently for the big night. Arranged in two separate hallways, the children’s artwork adorned the windows and was displayed on tables.
Each child had multiple pieces on display. There were detailed ocean scenes, monsters created with paint and string, penguins made from water bottles, shaving cream butterflies, safari scenes in boxes, melted crayon art, name sculptures, itsy bitsy spiders and more.
The children used a variety of media to create their masterpieces, including tie-dye, watercolor, tempura paint, papier-mâché, crayons, marble painting and food coloring as well as a cornucopia of materials, such as dried pasta, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, yarn, glitter glue, tissue paper, beans, seeds and anything they could get their hands on; the list was limited only by the imagination.
An around-the-world theme representing the various ethnicities of the preschoolers was on display, including a glittery Eiffel Tower replica. Photos of children painting under the table like Michelangelo were on display as well.
After dinner and a “happiest hour” of chocolate milk and cookies, the children led their families through their artistic journeys.
Whether or not the next O’Keefe, Kandinsky or Warhol will emerge is beside the point — what matters to the teachers is the self-expression, creativity, problem-solving and sense of pride that the children take in their work. “This is art for the sake of art,” said Jill Rook, executive director at Adat Shalom.
Gail Schmitt, preschool director, said that the preschool follows a modified HighScope method of teaching, which is a play-based, hands-on curriculum focused on the process, not the product. Nonetheless, because the teachers prepare for the art show all year, Schmitt said that they did aim to have a “product” to show at the end of the year. Nonetheless, “If you look at the windows, there is a lot of process there. Even if they are doing something that looks similar, they’re given different materials to make it uniquely theirs,” said Schmitt.
“To stay somewhat true to HighScope the teachers will provide a lot of different materials to get from point A to point B; the child can take and create according to what their vision is,” she added.
The show has evolved greatly from its inception eight or nine years ago. Schmitt feels that the teachers do more experimentation with multistep art projects, and the kids understand the concept, knowing that certain pieces of art that they create throughout the school year will be on display in the spring.
The evening also served as a PTO fundraiser, which included a silent auction made of items donated by parents and members of the congregation. According to Rook, the PTO has been responsible for raising funds to renovate the playground and purchase some equipment.
Schmitt thought that the evening overall was a great success. “I love watching the kids’ faces; they are so proud.”
Hilary Daninhirsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.