Students share their “Reflections of COVID” to raise money for arts education in schools

Starting April 3, shop windows in the Westchester Triangle will be transformed into mini galleries to showcase the artwork of more than 100 local K-12 students for the LAX Coastal Education Foundation’s (LAXCEF) first annual Art Show and Competition. The drawings, paintings and collages on display were created with the theme “Reflections of COVID.”

“Everyone is feeling the impact of the pandemic, and obviously our school communities and students have been hit hard,” said LAXCEF vice president and event co-chair Lory Sarlo. “We felt that giving students an outlet to express themselves through art would help them process their emotions and start conversations with families and friends, as well as get them excited about the opportunity to share their work with the community.”

Seventeen of the foundation’s schools are participating in the competition. Schools were asked to hold their own contests and select the artwork that would then move on to the final round and be displayed at local businesses for the whole community to view through Sunday, April 18.

“The artwork has been really fantastic,” said Sarlo. “Of course, there are a lot of masks and social distancing references, but there are also a lot of insightful perspectives from kids that make the viewer really think about the impact that this time has had on everyone.”

The artwork will be judged by some of the foundation’s community partners and the top three students in each age category (JK to second grade; third to fifth grade; sixth to eighth grade and high school) will receive a cash prize.

The foundation, which represents all elementary, middle and high schools located in Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, was unable to hold its annual Spelling Bee and Rock Roll & Run 5K at LMU this year due to COVID. Knowing that many schools are facing budget issues and with the foundation’s major fundraisers canceled as well, Sarlo says it was important to pivot to a COVID-safe event to try and raise funds.

“When we reached out to our sponsors to see if they’d be interested in supporting this event, they jumped at the opportunity,” said foundation president Andrew Chereck. “We’re so grateful for partners who see the value of supporting all of our students and creating new opportunities for them to showcase their talents.”

A piece of art created by an elementary school student from Goethe.

The foundation set a goal of raising $25,000 for this event, and was blown away when the Drollinger Family Charitable Foundation immediately stepped up to offer a $10,000 matching grant. Then came another $7,500 from the M&M Foundation. So far, almost $30,000 has been raised.

“Having that support is huge,” said Chereck. “It helped us reach our fundraising goal quickly and got more sponsors excited about the event. We would not be successful without the backing of our community partners who believe in our mission.”

Other major donors of the art show and competition include the Stephanie Younger Group, Otis College of Art and Design, SoCalGas, the William H. Hannon Foundation, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, the Suarez Team, Westchester Rotary, JANEFF Foundation, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa and the HomeTown News.

For Insa Kasai, who teaches art to more than 400 TK-7th grade students at Goethe, having her students participate in the competition was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

“Students responded to art this year in a really open and focused way,” said Kasai. “Art is a very important part of social emotional learning. The theme for the competition was a good push to start conversations with students and motivate them to open up and share what they were feeling on paper.”

With regular opportunities to display their artwork at school and events like open houses not possible over the last year, the prospect of being able to have their drawings seen by a lot of people also had a positive impact, said Kasai.

“There is a special pride in having a piece of blank paper in front of you and then an hour later having something beautiful that wasn’t there before,” said Kasai. “The opportunity to participate was like a little ray of light for the students.”

Sarlo hopes the community will take the time to view the artwork and consider making a donation to support arts education at local schools.

“All the proceeds from this event will go back to our schools via art grants to support these important programs in the classroom,” said Sarlo. “Art is something that often gets cut, but is a vital part of students’ education and something that LAXCEF feels is important to help fund.”

Adds Chereck, “We appreciate all of our sponsors and local businesses who are lending us their windows for this competition. We hope families and community members will visit the Westchester Triangle to view the art, and patronize our local businesses that support our local schools as well.”

Learn more at laxcef.org or text DONATE to (310) 807-2688

After viewing the artwork in the Triangle, visit facebook.com/thehtn and facebook.com/laxcoastaledfoundation starting April 12 to see all the pieces online and vote for your favorites. The artist behind the drawing with the most likes will receive a gift card to The Book Jewel. Visit facebook.com/thehtn for more details.

Posted April 2021.