Artsonia calls itself “the world’s largest kids’ art museum” but it’s much more than that.
The website also gives students a confidence booster and teachers a way to track their progress, puts a smile on the face of grandma in Seattle, solves hard-to-buy-for gift problems and leaves refrigerator doors looking a little less messy.
Yet, the concept is simple: Students create the works and teachers upload it to artsonia.com for the whole world to see. Two elementaries at Caledonia Community Schools – Kettle Lake and Emmons – submit their students’ artwork to the site.
Part-time art teachers Candi Price and Deb Trent use the program in their classrooms and are thrilled with what they’ve seen it do for their kindergarten through fifth-grade students.
“I think it pushes kids further because they know it’s being published,” Price says. “Some like to know their work is online for the world to see. A lot of them feel more important when their art is going on a website.”
Parents are proud to see their child’s work “in a museum” and that relatives (like grandma in Seattle) can see it, too. “Students get positive reinforcement from faraway family members,” Trent said.
Trent and Price started using Artsonia about six years ago to track students’ growth in a portfolio, but since then they’ve discovered additional benefits. “It’s wonderful to see the collection that’s always there,” Price says.
Artsonia staff look over each entry and monitor comments to make sure they are appropriate. For Internet safety, only parents are given security to access the site. “It’s a wonderfully, safe, family-friendly website,” Trent says.
As Price clicks through the pictures online she stops at “The Neon Vampire.” It’s a vampire with fangs and red hearts for eyes who is dreaming about himself jumping over 11 pumpkins with a big shiny sun in the sky. “Wouldn’t you love to know the story behind the Neon Vampire?” asks Price. A new feature Artsonia added makes that possible: Students can post “artist statements” about their work. The fourth grader who created the vampire writes: “His mom bit him cause he was day dreaming. He is in love with pumpkins.”
The company even makes a little money for the school. Parents can order prints, coffee mugs, ornaments, jewelry and even iPad cases featuring the child’s art for themselves or gifts. Twenty percent of each school’s sales go back to the school and are used to buy art supplies.
Fifth-grader Kamden Mulder says she always looks forward to art class. “It’s once a week. I wish it were more,” she says. “My grandma likes to see the artwork I put on Artsonia. I like to go on there and see all the pieces from kindergarten until now and see the progress I’ve made.”
More than 2,000 pieces of Kettle Lake Elementary’s art have been uploaded to the site, making it the top school in the state for submissions. Emmons Lake Elementary is sixth in the state for number of entries with nearly 1,700. Dutton Elementary in Caledonia is setting up an Artsonia program this year and several other Kent ISD elementary schools use it.
Price has applied for a grant to purchase iPads for the students. This would allow them to upload their own art, a very time-consuming part of the program. She has no doubt it’s worth it, though, noting just when she starts sighing over the hours it takes, she runs into a parent who gushes about going online and seeing their child’s work. One mother told her she was trying to decide whether to keep her sick child home from school, and the child told the mom: “I just have to go today because it’s art day.”