The cat is the subject of a painting created by "Leilah," a first grader at Slater Public Schools. Through a Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant, Leilah's cat drawing and artwork created by multiple other students is on display throughout town.
"I'm happy about (the exhibits)," said art teacher Linda Collins. "I'm excited to do it."
The $2,300 grant, written by Elementary School Principal Sarah Marriott, was awarded during the 2011-2012 school year and implemented this fall. Now, a rotating exhibit displays student work at City Hall, Allegri Chiropractic Clinic, State Bank of Slater, Big Bend Retreat and in front of the main school office. Collins will replace the work every few weeks.
"It's a creative process and it's a very cognitive thinking process -- creating art," she continued. "Using your imagination, coming up with these ideas is really hard work. It works your mind. It enriches your life too."
Collins teaches kindergarten through 12th grade art, seeing the ebb and flow of students' development since 2001. Twelve years of teaching in Slater means she's had the opportunity to see several classes of students grow up. Each year, she balances that range of projects.
"The youngest I have displayed is a first grader ... and the oldest is a high school Art I student," she said. "I just randomly pick and I try to include all grades."
Not only is the project meant to benefit the students or excite them about the visual arts, it's a way to help tie the community into the district.
"I applied for the grant as a way to showcase the artistic talent of the Slater School District students," Marriott said. "I thought it would be a positive opportunity to share our students' talent with the community."
Since Marriott has been with the district, she and Collins have talked about putting art in the community in some way, Collins said. This one-time grant allowed them to implement the project by purchasing art supplies and materials they couldn't have otherwise afforded, and Industrial Arts instructor Gary Schaefer donated his time and skills to build frames and easels.
"This has been a very beneficial grant," Marriott continued. "It gives the students an opportunity to see their artwork framed and on display -- it makes a big difference. I hope the rotating art displays highlight the positive contributions our students make to our community and school."
And it seems those contributions are standing out as well as the highlight and shadow that form Leilah's cat. According to one Board of Education member, people are taking notice.
"I think it's wonderful to display the students' work at any time and any place," said Board of Education member Jodi Fuemmeler. "I think it's wonderful to show the community what they're doing."
Fuemmeler is employed at State Bank of Slater and has heard patrons asking about the displayed work in the lobby.
"A lot of people stop and look at them," she said.
And that's a priority -- using art as a tool to drum up conversation, the core of what it's always meant to do. Slater schools seem to have made this a priority in recent years, having also hosting its first Fine Arts Night this past April and expanding some of the band programs. For visual arts, students tend to have their own focus.
"Everybody has their own interest," Collins stated. "Some students excel in art and, of course, they love it. ... My hope is that they all enjoy it and get some experience with it."
Much like the cat drawing framed at City Hall, artwork within the walls of the school is colorful and intricate. Eighth grade students are working in oil pastels and watercolor, high schoolers are yarn painting and seventh grade students created clay leaves with a relief and will glaze them once they've set.
"The thing (students) like the most, the ultimate thing, is working with clay," Collins added.
Any of these projects are eligible for the rotating exhibits, which Collins will soon trade out. In the meantime, students will continue dipping their brushes in paint, getting their hands pasty and understanding the rewards of creating art.
Contact Sarah Reed at