Bob Mittendorf was a bit concerned when his wife told him they were going to an art crawl Friday.
“My mind was wandering; I mean, an art crawl? I had no idea what that meant,” he said while touring the Banbury Art Crawl.
“I guess I’m kind of like Mikey, though,” the 62-year-old from Eau Claire said, referring to an old Life cereal commercial. “I liked it.”
There is plenty to see at the event that continues today from 9 am. to 5 p.m. at buildings 10 and 13 of Banbury Place, 930 Galloway St.
“I like the art stuff, but having it in this old building is kinda cool too,” Mittendorf said.
Prime Products, a business run by DeLong Middle School students, drew plenty of attention.
“It’s a student-run entrepreneurial group that uses art to learn about business,” said DeLong art teacher Kathy Bareis. “They are using all of their skills from art class and putting them into a real life situation.”
Since 2000, sixth- through eighth-graders at the school have done everything from managing and producing items from bird baths to magnets to photo albums.
“It’s like actually running a company,” said Bareis. “It’s amazing what they do.”
About 20 students are involved with this weekend’s venture. DeLong is the sole student-based business at the event.
“All this helps them in the long run,” Bareis added. “We were asked to be in this. It’s pretty amazing.”
Part of the students’ business plan includes what to do with profits. A percentage is used for future projects, while others go for community projects, such as the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire and Bob’s House for Dogs.
A dollar from each sale of “make & take” items at the Art Crawl event is going to the Confluence Project. Prime Products has given an estimated $15,000 to community organizations since 2000.
“The connections with the community are really important to us,” Bareis said.
“This is also about philanthropy and service learning,” she said, adding that the group is focusing on a project next year where hats with reflective material will be available for students walking home in the dark after school.
More than 100 DeLong students help with the various projects, as well as teachers and volunteers. The group is considering “outsourcing” to elementary schools that feed into DeLong “to teach them what we do and help with some of our smaller tasks.”
Grace Horn, an eighth-grader and group co-president, said she likes “working with everyone, making new friends and learning how to make a business.”
Grace says she also likes “getting my hands dirty” by working with the clay and glaze. “The soap dishes are really fun to make.”
Elsa Oplinger, a sixth-grader who was helping Friday, said she got involved with the project for several reasons.
“I like art and have almost my whole life. I like working with clay and thought it would be fun,” she said, adding, “It’s a good way to get your confidence up.”
Kathleen Sheridan, formerly of Eau Claire, was at the event Friday showcasing her origami (paper folding) business, Origami and You.
“I was a Spanish teacher 18 years and always loved teaching and loved kids, but since fourth grade, I’ve had a passion for origami,” she said. “I just thought this is my time to give it a go and felt it was time for a change.”
Sheridan, of St. Paul, said she was spurred to make the change after the death of her father, respected educator Terry Sheridan, in late 2013.
“That was a pivotal moment for me. I thought, wow, life is short,” she said. “Teaching was getting harder than I wanted it to be. This is my second year doing this, and I’m loving this more.”
Sheridan still gets to teach in a variety of settings, from libraries and schools to corporate settings for workshops.
She said origami “is more than just paper cranes. It has so many more benefits, from teaching eye-hand coordination to improving memory. It’s still largely for youth, but adults are getting into it more. It’s fun and is my passion.”
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