Elementary Artists Send Creations to Brighten Seniors’ Rooms

Selfless High School Student Provides Supplies, Connections

Cole Battershall, back center, helps out Coit Creative Arts Academy students including, from left, Erin Case, J’Quan Overstreet, Vanessa Bont and Gabriel Buskard

The students of Coit Creative Arts Academy have found a champion for their art program in a state-champion equestrian, and senior citizens have found their rooms a little cheerier as a result.

So goes a warm partnership between Coit, a fine-arts specialty program of Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Cole Battershall, a Grand Rapids Christian High School junior with a heart for art and seniors. Drawing on her winnings in hunter and jumper horse competitions around the country, Cole has donated $1,250 to Coit to supplement its limited budget for art supplies.

Coit’s students recently thanked her with a colorful signed card and flowers, and a rousing shout-out of “Thank you!” at a school assembly. She left with about 50 pieces of student artwork she will donate to a local senior living center.

Students and faculty were touched by Cole’s generosity, which exemplified the school’s February theme of caring.

“It was very kind of her to donate all that money to our school for art supplies,” said Gabriel Buskard, a fifth-grader.  “She could have done anything else with that money. But she decided to donate it, and I’m very thankful for that.”

So is art teacher Karen Brady, who’s used some of her own funds to pay for supplies. Plenty are needed at a school where students take art and music twice a week and the arts are woven into all subjects.

“Art supplies cost a lot of money,” Brady said. “This year we’re able to get a few extra specialty things for kids,” such as better-quality paints for the backdrops for the year-end musical, “The Lion King.” “I think she’s a pretty outstanding young lady to be that age and do something as selfless as this.”

Art teacher Karen Brady says Cole’s donations will pay for supplies such as paint, brushes, paper, and oil and chalk pastels

Start of Something Beautiful

Cole said she got the idea after visiting her grandmother undergoing rehabilitation at Porter Hills retirement community, and seeing how the colorful pictures Cole had drawn for her brightened up the room. She noticed other residents had children’s art on their doors, but many didn’t.

“I realized how much it would mean to connect these seniors with art from kids,” Cole said. “I thought it would add color and cheer to their room.”

That led her two years ago to start Art 2 Heart, a service project that collects art from day care centers and schools to give to senior living centers. Her donations to Coit, as well as The Potter’s House Christian school, support students in producing the heart-warming artwork.

“Art is the first to be cut in schools,” said Cole, an art student herself. “It gives back to the community more than I could use myself. I don’t need more clothes or anything like that.”

She plans to contribute more to Coit, and Principal Jason McGhee hopes to take students to see her horses and visit senior centers. “It makes a big difference,” he told Cole of her contributions. “It matters.”

Said kindergartner J’Quan Overstreet, “I’m glad Cole is here.”

CONNECT

Coit Creative Arts Academy

Art 2 Heart

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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