WHITE MARSH — The seventh annual Baltimore County Public (BCPS) School Kindness for Paws Art Show took place on Feb. 16 at White Marsh Mall, allowing the public to view 4,000 pieces of animal-themed artwork created by students from 28 BCPS schools.
The Kindness for Paws Art Show was originally created by Perry Hall Middle School art teacher Molly Shappel.
She came up with the idea because she creates animal artwork for fun and thought what if her students could participate in the activity, and collaborated the idea with service learning with the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
The first year, there were only Perry Hall Middle participants, but each year more schools joined.
During the “name-your-donation” art sale, Maryland SPCA volunteers assisted patrons in making their purchases, requiring minimum donation of $5 per artwork is required with higher donations welcomed.
All proceeds from the event are donated to the Maryland SPCA.
Chesapeake Terrace Elementary fifth graders participated in this years Kindness for Paws Art Show.
Chesapeake Terrace Elementary Visual Arts teacher Mandy Buttrum said her art students had a wonderful response to the project because most of her students have pets, many of which came from the SCPA.
“Students enjoy sharing their experiences with adopting their pets and what it is like to care for a pet,” Buttrum said.
Majority Buttum’s students are passionate about animals and really enjoyed choosing a rescued animal to dedicate their artwork to. At the beginning of the project her students watched a video to learn about how the SCPA helps shelter animals as well as pet owners in the community.
“My students feel empowered by this project. They feel that they can create something that is meaningful in a way that helps a shelter pet, rescued pet, or member of the Baltimore community. I’ve also found fifth grade students taking a new found interest in animal advocacy,” Buttum said.
According to Buttum, this project is important because many young people want to help their communities but don’t know how.
“The PAWS for Kindness project allows our students to dedicate themselves to something more important. My fifth graders deserve the opportunity to be altruistic and use their work for something important. This also opens the conversation of how we use the arts to send a message, connect with others, and express ourselves,” Buttum said.
For the first year, about 10 third graders from Logan Elementary were elected to have work included in the Kindness for Paws Art Show.
Many art students love animals and many have their own pets at home, Logan Elementary art teacher, Taylor Boren said.
“It was wonderful to hear stories from students who adopted their own pets from a shelter, so they were able to find an even more personal connection to the project,” Boren said.
Students were able to choose the animal they wanted to draw from a series of photos provided by the SPCA.
“Having a choice allowed students to form a more personal connection with the animal and their artwork,” Boren said.
In Boren’s opinion, the Kindness for Paws project aligns to Baltimore County’s presenting standards which address student input on displaying work and understanding different types of venues and reasons artwork might be displayed.
This project also gives students an opportunity to show empathy and kindness by creating art that benefits animals in shelters,” she noted.
“As an art teacher, I strive to provide students with a variety of experiences in art-making because you never know what medium, subject or artist might spark a life-long love of art or advocacy in a student,” Boren said.
At Essex Elementary, students were excited to draw the pets, each choosing the pet they wanted to draw and worked from a black and white print.
Many students chose to draw pets that reminded them of their own pet, according to Essex Elementary art teacher Tracy Skeels.
“The students jumped right in to the project. There is a great love for pets and drawing in first graders,” she noted.
Skeels said she chose for her students to create an artwork for the Kindness for Paws art show and auction to give them the opportunity to participate in a philanthropic project.
“When students experience a sense of pride in their participation that benefits others in the greater community, and not themselves, they are proactive members of that community. We cannot teach that more authentically,” Skeels said.
Deep Creek Middle eighth graders, for the first time participated in Kindness for Paws Art Show.
“Students were very excited about the project, and especially about the mission behind it. They loved learning about the SPCA, and want to do their part to support the adoption of animals,” Deep Creek Middle Art Department Chair Jasmine Silverman explained. “I feel that this project is important for students because not only is it expanding their worldview about a topic that is very close to home for many of them, but it also opens their eyes to many of the things that the SPCA does behind the scenes so to speak.”
“Through this assignment, students are able to practice art skills, literacy skills, and technology skills, which are all very relevant to their educational advancement,” she noted.
White Marsh resident Becky Brzozowski didn’t know Kindness for Paws Art Show was going to taking place while she was shopping, but was excited to see it during her trip to the mall.
“I did it last year and I was wondering when it was going to be. I was randomly on the mall and was stoked that it was today,” Brzozowski said.
“I think the art work looks really good, especially for their ages and the grades.”