Byron Center — A whimsical sketch of a treehouse, a sand-filled bottle decorated with shells and a computer-animated self-portrait of a Cub Scout are among pieces of art created by Nickels Intermediate students and ready to be sent to local nursing homes.
Fifth- and sixth-graders took part in a special project in art teacher Molly Marshall’s class. They spent free time at school and home to make any kind of art they wanted — from paintings to collages — for Project Art Box.
The community art project is operated by WEcareGR, a group of local people who work to spread joy in the community through fun projects.
Project Art Box challenges students to make and donate art to seniors. So far, more than 10,000 pieces of student artwork from 18 schools have been distributed to 18 nursing facilities in the Grand Rapids area, said Project Coordinator Audrey Wendt. Kent ISD districts that also have participated include Forest Hills, Thornapple Kellogg and Caledonia public schools.
Wendt, a registered nurse, began WecareGR to gather school supplies for Buchanan Elementary. Her mission evolved into other projects including matching elderly residents with student penpals and Project Art Box.
“Project Art Box was an idea that emerged in December after I started to see an uptick in loneliness and depression in my elderly patients that were presenting to the ER that I work at,” she said. “Many of them expressed that they just simply had nothing to look forward to. I knew that I had to take action and help these wonderful people.”
Among more than 100 pieces donated at Nickels, sixth-grader Hayley Dickey contributed a drawing of a treehouse, complete with a rickety ladder. Fifth-grader Taylor Zeinstra used sand she brought home from Florida and created a decorative bottle. Fifth-grader Bryan Skibinski drew a picture of himself on his computer.
The students said they thought about how much their grandparents love their artwork and have especially appreciated receiving it during the pandemic when they aren’t getting together.
Taylor said she had another reason for bringing them the bottled sand and shells: “Old people in the nursing homes can’t go to the beach, so I wanted to share it with them.”
Marshall said she loves to get her students involved with community art projects. “I think it’s important for the kids to think of other people. Especially this year, it was nice to have a reason for them to brighten up someone else’s day. It makes them feel good too.”