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Pictures do the talking for area students

Pictures drawn by local elementary school students are on display at the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton as part of The Picture Project. - Photo by Wesley Remmer
Pictures drawn by local elementary school students are on display at the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton as part of The Picture Project.
— image credit: Photo by Wesley Remmer

By WESLEY REMMER

Staff writer

Area children are becoming aesthetic expressers as The Picture Project, a non-profit organization designed to encourage children to use art as a form of self-expression and to think about culturally-significant issues, recently partnered with the Kitsap Regional Libraries to display the artwork of elementary school students at each of its nine branches in Kitsap County.

Visual artist Fred Nicholson began The Picture Project in 2001 by showing the artwork of more than 200 children to spectators at the Jewel Box Theatre in Poulsbo. After positive feedback from students, teachers and parents, Nicholson partnered with filmmaker and photographer Steve Stolee in 2002, and the program’s pool of student participants has expanded ever since. And now more than 1,300 students have participated in The Picture Project, which has an additional art exhibit at the Max Hale Center in Bremerton.

“We’re fiercely interested in the power of children’s artwork,” said Stollee, who came on board because he believes art is a valuable form of expression, especially in young people.

“It’s not about the kids being great artists or intuitive geniuses, it’s about learning the ideas they have formed up to a (certain) point in their lives.”

Stolee and Nicholson introduce a different theme pertaining to culture each year — “Peace Looks Like This” (2002) and “My World of White, Black, and Color” (2006) were the first two — to inspire the students’ drawings.

Students at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, as well as students from Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard and Suquamish created artwork to illustrate the 2007 theme, “This is My Family.” Those pictures were — and still are — exhibited at the Kitsap Regional Libraries and the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton.

“There is a resonance that occurs when all the children’s artwork is put together,” Stolee said of the exhibits. “Multiple pictures capture a single idea.”

And Stolee believes The Picture Project does more than to simply illicit self-expression from students.

“This is a way of seeing a picture into who we are as a culture, and using artwork as a key to unlock the door to the community psyche. The information we gain about our culture becomes significant,” he said.

Stolee creates a documentary every year, featuring the participants discussing their work. And by doing so, he condenses hours of work into 15 minutes.

“We keep the films short and light, so you get an immediate sensation from these kids,” he said.

Stolee believes The Picture Project will gain more notoriety as people see the exhibits around town. More importantly, however, Stolee hopes Kitsap County residents recognize the intellect children possess.

“There’s humor, pathos, deep sadness, remarkable insight.”

The Max Hale Center is located at 285 5th St. in Bremerton.

For more information about The Picture Project, visit http://thepictureproject.org/ on the Web.

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