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Whitmore Charter showcases talent
Whitmore Charter School's cafeteria is usually filled with food and beverages but Thursday night at the school's first annual Fine Arts Night, the room was filled with 350 pieces of art.

The works were created by students in kindergarten through eighth grade over the course of this school year, using professional materials such as pastels, oil paint, watercolor and other mediums.

They each got to select one work of art to have matted, laminated and displayed in the gallery.

Fine Arts Night was a free event but parents were encouraged to give $10 as a suggested donation to take their child's work home.

Also, there was an auction fundraiser. All proceeds benefited the fine arts department at Whitmore Charter School. The money will be spent on the program and art supplies, as the school anticipates next year's budget cuts.

Another purpose of Fine Arts Night was to allow for a more public display of students' creativity.

"They don't usually see their art out like this in a formal setting. Today, their work isn't just stapled in classroom," said Cheri Lloyd.

Lloyd is the art director and an art teacher at Whitmore Charter School.

She approached Principal Paula Smith last spring about coordinating a comprehensive schoolwide event where drama, dance, art and music could be showcased.

A year later, with the help of parent volunteers and booster club members, Lloyd saw Fine Arts Night unfold before her eyes.

"I'm really impressed. Our school is usually good when it comes to turnouts and our parents are very supportive," she said.

Smith was also pleased with the attendance Thursday.

"This is our first Fine Arts Night and the turnout is incredible, but because of the quality of our fine arts team, I am not surprised.

"This is an excellent event. You can see the pride on parents' faces. For many, it is their first time seeing their child's work. I think the parents are very pleased," Smith said.

One such parent was Carrie Rager, of Keyes, who has two sons attending Whitmore Charter School. She brought her family to Fine Arts Night to see her children's works and those of others.

"The kids had artwork so we came to check it out. Being able to see art and its progression from kindergarten on up is really neat and the kids get to show off what they've been doing at school," Rager said.

The events of Fine Arts Night were not confined to the cafeteria. There was an outdoor stage set up with performances by students in orchestra, band and dance.

Students at Whitmore Charter School take classes for all of the above to receive a more well-rounded education in arts.

Smith says this is so "because we want them to raise the bar for themselves. Our standards come with high expectations.

"We are a school of discovery and believe that the only way to teach a child is to expose them to various subjects."

She added that there is research that shows that art education stimulates seven types of intelligence in children which helps them to better study math and language arts.

To complete the theme of a formal fine arts event, sparkling cider and desserts were served throughout the night.

Smith and Lloyd both have plans to make Fine Arts Night a larger event next year and in the years to follow. They believe that art should be celebrated because it is a subject that facilitates the learning of other subjects as well as citizenship.

"Art complements classroom instruction. We integrate technology into teaching students about rich art history such as genres in art.

"The goal of our school of the arts is to give students skills that they can display in the community, not just the classroom," Smith said.

Whitmore Charter School in Ceres opened in 2003 as school of technology for elementary and middle school children.

Two years ago, it added a school of fine arts. It was named as a distinguished school Tuesday.