Color by the numbers

-A A +A
By Todd Martin

Jackson Pollack, Grandma Moses, Andy Warhol and Ben Bernanke?


Combining art and economics isn’t an everyday occurrence.

Unless you are a student at Southside Elementary.

Third-grade teachers Amanda Dungan, Andrea Gohmann and Krista Armes designed a project that combined all those subjects and ends up as a benefit for the community.

“We wanted to be able to do something that each kid could be strong in,” Dungan said. “Not every kid is a great artist, but they can be great in economics, math or writing.”

Their students first study artists, learning how and whey they chose their subjects and the colors they used. Then, after choosing an artist to emulate, they begin painting canvases of their own.

But they have to budget for the canvas, paint and brush rental.

The students then display their art for sale at a show at Shelby County Public Schools central office. They will then be on display at local businesses around town, giving the paintings that didn’t sell at the show a chance to be purchased.

The money raised from the art sale will be donated to Project Backpack.

“I think the kids really remember the lessons more, because we’re not just talking about it, but using them every day,” Armes said. “They learn a lot by reading, but actually using it everyday really helps it sink in.”

Last year the teachers started the project with a grant from the Kentucky Council on Economic Education, and this year they were able to continue with a grant from Louisville Visual Arts.

The grant provides the teachers with money for the paint, canvases and a couple of field trips, and it also brings in a local artist to talk to the classes.

“It was great, because the first year we got a lot of information and some books on economics, and this year it was more geared toward art,” Dungan said.

Each student starts the project with a budget of $12. The canvas cost $5, and brush rental is 50 cents a day. Paint then ranges per squirt from 10 cents for your run-of-the-mill blue, yellow and red to 45 cents for bright pink.

Students even learned to mix some colors, saving themselves money on their tight budgets.

Nate Stone said that was his favorite part.

“Mixing the colors, that’s fun,” he said.

As the teachers went around the room, students were ready and waiting, money already counted out to pay for their paint.

“We worked really hard at the beginning on the budget, because a lot kids don’t really experience that,” Dungan said. “As we continued, they got a lot better with their budgets, and now they understand how it’s used in real life.”

Some students overspent, and, like in life, they were held accountable.

“We had them do extra jobs in the classroom to earn extra money,” Armes said. “They learned to trade, mix colors or get a ‘second job’ to pay for it. We had them clean up with us after we painted to earn a little more. They learned how to adapt, just like they would in the real world.”

The students all agreed that the painting was their favorite part of the project, but they’re also excited to see the paintings.

“That’s going to be fun,” Addison Pippin said. “But I don’t think mine will sell for that much. I picked Jackson Pollack because I liked the colors.”

Although Pippin didn’t think her work would sell for that much, it looks like the class could make quite a bit for the Backpack Project.

“Last year we raised about seventeen hundred dollars with the art show,” Dungan said. “And I think we’ll do better this year.”

There will be a show at Southside on Monday, and then the public show will be Tuesday at SCPS.

After that, the art will be on display at local businesses from Wednesday through March 31. Art that doesn’t sell at the show would be on sale at the businesses. There is a minimum $25 donation for each canvas.