A reception for students of art and music at Fulcrum Coffee Roasters in Seattle's Georgetown introduces young people to the arts world.
Parents always ask music teacher Tracy Helming the same question: How do you inspire your kids?
You can’t, Helming tells them.
“Inspiration is like being hit by lighting,” said Helming, who runs the International House of Strings, where she teaches violin and cello. It just comes out of nowhere, whether it’s on the playing field, the stage or the library.
But if they are part of something like this weekend’s reception for art and music students at Fulcrum Coffee Roasters in Georgetown, well, anything can happen.
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“This, to me,” Helming said, “is like walking into a lightning storm with an umbrella and a key.”
The reception was started by Shelley Thomas, who founded the Early Masters art school in Maple Leaf in 2008. Thomas teaches art history — about a period or a specific artist — and then has students create their own versions of works such as the Mona Lisa or one of Andy Warhol’s celebrity portraits. It is in keeping with the tradition of artists going to museums and copying the greats in order to learn technique before developing their own style.
Thomas wanted her students to experience putting their work in front of parents and the public, and to know how it feels to be part of something bigger than what they experience, and create, in the classroom.
“By taking it out there and presenting it to the world, it’s this validation,” Thomas said. “It encourages them to be brave and put their ideas and voice out there.”
For seven years, Thomas’ students had exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum. Two years ago, she invited Helming’s students to join hers, and play at the exhibit.
“It’s special because it celebrates the unusual abilities of these kids to make art,” Helming said. “It’s a celebration, not a competition. They’re collaborating, bringing physical art and visual art together.”
Last year, the exhibit moved to Fulcrum Coffee in Georgetown, which donated coffee drinks, and where Trophy Cupcakes made treats decorated with great works like Monet’s waterlilies.
“It’s a proper artists reception,” Thomas said. “But also a fun way to celebrate kids. People walked around and they just couldn’t believe it.”
At the event, kids act as docents, telling attendees about the history of a piece, the artist who created it, or the period in which it was created. The music students play pieces that fit the period of the paintings. Debussy for the Impressionists, for example.
Caroline Holt, 10, has been taking both art and violin classes and will be doing double duty at the exhibition: Playing, and talking about her work with attendees.
“Sometimes I get nervous,” she said. “But most of the time it’s fun. It’s a giant art party. There’s cupcakes and stuff like that, and you get to hear people play violin.”
Her parents have exposed her to museums in Seattle, Boston and Palm Springs, California, and have gifted her with art supplies. So she considers herself an artist.
“Anybody who loves art and does art is considered an artist,” she said.
She’s just in fifth grade at The Bush School, so Caroline isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life.
“But I will always paint,” she said. “It makes me feel happy and it’s a good way to express yourself.”
Her mother, Shannon, said Caroline is “a pretty shy kid.”
“For her to be able to express herself though her art, and for people to praise her is good for her self-esteem and her identity as an artist,” she said. “And she’s growing as a person, as well.”
Thomas and Helming say their event complements arts education offered by Seattle Public Schools. The district collaborates with Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Seattle Foundation and community arts organizations on a program called Creative Advantage, in which artists are invited into classrooms and teachers are trained to integrate art into other subjects. Helming’s daughter plays in the Garfield High School orchestra. (“It’s great,” she said).
They’re simply giving their students a glimpse of what could be, should they pursue their art — and should they simply become art lovers, and supporters.
“They’re the future,” Thomas said. “Tracy and I don’t have any expectations that these kids are going to be great artists. We just want to make them more aware of the beauty that is around them.”