The artwork of Charles and Phyllis Frias Elementary School students can be seen in a gallery. But this is no ordinary gallery. It’s the largest student art museum in the world.
Art Specialist Carl Hayes posts photos of all of his students’ artwork to Artsonia.com, an Illinois-based website where every child’s masterpiece can be kept in a digital portfolio.
A native of Ontario, Canada, Hayes has been with the Clark County School District for eight years. He said when he first signed up with Artsonia a few years ago, it was mostly to make parents aware of all the great artwork being produced by their children. But interest in the site exploded, and Hayes has now uploaded more than 8,000 photos to the site. Tens of thousands of people all over the world have viewed those images.
As explained by Hayes, the website is open to schools at no charge. A friend or relative of a child whose artwork is posted on the site can order a T-shirt, mug or other item, imprinted with the child’s artwork. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the sale of those items goes back to the school. Last year, Frias earned $2,000 from its Artsonia postings.
When someone clicks on a particular photo, they can offer an online comment. According to Hayes, this can be very exciting for the students whose artwork is being viewed. “Seeing the comments on their creations is a big boost to their self-esteem. When they see that people from all over the world are admiring their artwork, it’s a great incentive for them to continue developing their talents.”
Hayes explained that art in schools has the role of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everybody else. “It’s a good outlet for students to express themselves in a fun atmosphere.”
Other subjects, such as mathematics, play a major role in art. As stated by Hayes, “Math skills are very important. Those skills, combined with creativity, bring a child’s vision to life.”
Principal Pamela Lindemuth has nothing but praise for Hayes and his teaching methods. “From the moment I stepped into Mr. Hayes’ art room, I could see students learning to create and appreciate art. From motor skill and language development to decision making and cultural awareness, Mr. Hayes’ art room is a place for students to build confidence and stretch their creativity.”