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Art of Ages

`Every child should have the chance to be an artist,' says woman who coordinates Westside PTO fundraiser

Kennedy Burns wants to nurture the artist in every child.

But when it came time to pick six works of art to appear on notecards as a Westside Elementary School PTO fundraiser, Burns couldn't do it.

She had to pick 18, instead.

"It will be wonderful if every student eventually gets an opportunity to take part in this fundraiser," said Burns. "Every child should have the chance to be an artist."

Volunteer parent Cindy Morris started the fundraiser last year, borrowing from similar programs at other schools. She picked one piece of art from each grade at Westside, kindergarten through fifth, and sold them in notecard format to earn money for the school's art program.

"Westside didn't have funds specifically earmarked for an art fund," said Burns. "All proceeds from the PTO fundraiser go to the fund in hopes of purchasing art supplies and bringing in local artists-in-residence."

The fundraiser's first year was a success, and when Morris was ready to pass along responsibility for the program during a PTO meeting last September, Burns couldn't resist. She was one of four mothers who founded Kaleidoscope, a traveling children's "museum without walls," which crisscrossed the valley between 1997 and 1999. And during the last four years she has helped the Mt. Hood Railroad put on a twice-yearly art and music festival in Parkdale.

"The fundraiser sounded like something I'd be interested in and excited to do, so I volunteered," said Burns. "I love the arts and advocate the children's possibilities. They're so free in their expression. Art should be an integral part of any classroom curriculum, and I hope it maintains its importance."

Burns collected all the art that students had produced between September and October and laid it out on her floor, surveying it with her seven-year-old daughter, Frances. There were all sorts of mediums -- ink blot, colored pencil, felt tip marker, crayon, styrofoam plate and more.

"We got so excited and were jumping all over," recalled Burns. "I said, `There's no way I can pick just six!' So I decided to make three packets of six."

Burns has plans to pick groups of six throughout the year, but right now her focus is on the current batch of work. After Burns selects the art, she travels to Portland to shrink it down to card size. Then she works with fellow volunteer Cindy Yoshimura to fold, package and price the cards for distribution to local businesses. The Westside PTO foots the three-dollar cost of producing each packet, which sell for six dollars.

Already the community is taking notice.

"They sell wonderfully," said Rose Kelly, manager of Waucoma Bookstore. "I think they have a universal appeal. People from all over are buying these -- it's not just the kids' parents coming down."

Local masseuse Sheila Shearer spied a set of cards and was instantly impressed by kindergartener Brandon Pickerd's work. Titled "The American Flag," his card depicts the artist waving the Stars and Stripes.

"When I looked at his face, the future looked very bright and very clear," wrote Shearer in a letter to Burns. She offered to donate a $75 massage gift certificate that could be randomly inserted into one of the packets.

Burns took her up on the offer, and managed to get The Parlor's Lori Fletcher to donate a haircut, the 6th Street Bistro a $10 gift certificate and the Hood River Sports Club two complimentary day passes.

Community Education director Mike Schend was also taken by Pickerd's artwork, and the cover of the 2002 Winter Program Catalog bears "The American Flag."

Burns thanked Schend and Westside principal Terri Vann for their help and support, calling each "instrumental" to the project's success. She also thanked Westside teachers for their cooperation and interest.

Burns sometimes puts in whole days working on the project, but admitted that it was a labor of love.

"I took lots of art classes in school, I collect it, and I'd like to produce it someday," said Burns. "I love it when ideas perpetuate ideas, and creativity goes wild. But for now I'm just funneling art out to the public -- I act as a medium."

Burns pointed out that the cards are great stocking stuffers, and while appropriate for the holidays, they remain useful all year.

"It's been received enthusiastically, and there have been lots of dedicated, supportive people behind the project," said Burns. "Everyone embraces children's art -- it goes across religious and ethnic boundaries."

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Packs of notecards cost six dollars each (checks should be made payable to the Westside PTO) and are available at Twiggs, the Hood River Hotel, Hood River Community Education, the Hood River Sports Club, Postal Annex, Annz Panz, Waucoma Books, Columbia Art Gallery, The Parlor and at the Westside Elementary School front desk. Burns encourages other businesses to participate and support the work of student artists. The current batch of cards was created by Emily Bryan, Kirra Paulus, Cole Hunter, Juan Ledezma, Jackie Jones, Rolando Trejo, Brittney Lompa, Kelby Broddie, Kiana Sanchez, Frances Burns, Sanjuanita Bibian, Stephen Justin, Levi Vance, Brandon Pickerd, Yesinia Arteaga, Kenzie Yoshimura, Tiffany Sweet and Ben Sigl.

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