Family Art Day with Melissa Samsel

Every semester, we work with a handful of teachers that take a different angle with their Art to Remember fundraiser. We love hearing their stories and getting to share them with you too.

This week, we talked to Melissa Samsel who is the art teacher at the Innovation Academy just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Melissa planned a Family Art Day with her kindergarten classes, which allowed parents and their children to create a piece of art together. It also gave Melissa a chance to introduce them to Art to Remember:

Family Art Day

How did you discover AtR? Starting up a new school, I wanted to have flexibility with materials. To make the Elements and Principles of Art meaningful, students need to apply these skills with all types of art. I researched and asked other art educators which fundraiser was the best rated. At that point, I knew Art to Remember would help financially to get the materials I needed for a successful curriculum.

What was appealing about partnering with AtR? Like many artists, our visual and professional representation is important. Art to Remember was organized, produced high quality products and had highly trained employees to help me every step of the way.

Did you need to convince a principal or administrator to let you participate? Funding is limited in schools, this is no surprise, especially in art. Many underestimate the cost of art supplies and what it takes to have a successful program. I spoke with my principal about working with Art to Remember and he was supportive knowing that this could aide in getting students the tools they need to be successful.

How do you plan to use your funds? I have used the funds to build up my print making materials, weaving units, STEAM curriculum, and school-wide murals. Now that my classroom has most of the art supply set up, I would love to organize an outdoor clay fire pit area. Our school does a lot with clay and I think it would be a fun collaborative family experience to have a pit fire.

How did you come up with the idea for family art day? I’m a big believer that “It takes a village” to raise a child. Childhood is a special gift that doesn’t last forever. I wanted to create an art lesson where families could be involved and create a special lesson with their child. Having it printed on a keepsake is a way to cherish this special time.

How did it make your students feel to work with their family members on a project? It was truly magical and let’s be honest – a lot of work. Parents have busy schedules, I had to open up my classroom doors before school, after school, and during class to make accommodations for everyone. The smiles and memories that were shared between the child and family member were definitely worth it. The students felt like leaders guiding their family around the art room and the parents were over the moon to act like a kid for a day.

Family Day Art

Did you choose guided lessons for the families or did you leave it open ended? I change my lessons a lot year to year. I always have a guide or expectation but let the child choose from there. For this lesson, students were able to decide if they wanted a horse handprint or unicorn handprint and create the background accordingly. Over the years I have found it less stressful on the child, the parent and myself if my lesson has direction and guidelines. I will always support someone’s unique creative approach to it though.

What drew you to that project in particular? Being a parent myself, I can’t believe how quickly children grow up. I’m not a huge fan of handprint art but knowing how short-lived kindergarten is I couldn’t resist the documentation of their handprint. I cherish the handprint art of my own children. I knew it was the right call and that the families would cherish it too. Ha, I even had an adult doing their handprint say, “I’m buying a piece for my mom she hasn’t had my handprint since I was a child.” It was great to see the parents not only excited about their child’s handprint but their own.

Any additional comments? Teaching art can be very isolating and feel like we are constantly fighting as advocates for our program. The more you involve families and the community in your program the more support you will have. After all, art is for sharing with the world.

Do you have any advice for teachers that are currently participating in a fundraiser or that are considering running one? Do it! Create bold vibrant colored works that make you excited, get the students excited and get families excited. After all your hard work, when the money comes in you will be happy to finally teach that lesson you were told there isn’t enough money for.

Thank you so much, Melissa!

If you are doing something a bit different with your Art to Remember fundraiser or funds, we would love to hear from you!