The not-for-profit organization helps the next generation of students experience, appreciate and enjoy the arts, especially children in schools where arts education has been de-emphasized. Lack of music and arts education is a most serious situation faced by many students in because of tight budgets and other reasons.
Art Road played a prominent role at the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services “Experiencing Perspectives” celebration of the arts on April 24 at the Headquarters in Farmington Hills. The company cafeteria was transformed into an art gallery for the evening with Art Road’s K-5 student art surrounding Cranbrook Academy of Art student artwork, creating a rich example of how art touches our lives at many junctures.
More than 200 attendees viewed the art, challenged their perspectives and were welcomed by Peter Zieringer, President and CEO. He noted that Mercedes-Benz Financial Services believes in displaying art in its offices “to provide a work environment that is creative and inspiring, challenging us to rethink what we know and allowing us to remain competitive.”
Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is a Platinum Partner with Art Road. Art Road provides special arts activity classes, including supplies and an instructor, at no cost to elementary schools that lack art programs. Art Road is bringing art class back to 800 students at Edison Elementary School and Charles Wright Academy of Arts & Science, both are Detroit Public Schools. Learn more at: www.artroadnonprofit.org.
Among the event’s attendees were Art Road friends, donors and collaborators. Principals of both Art Road schools were in attendance and beamed with pride when they saw student artwork displayed along the windows. Kimberly Davis, Charles Wright School principal, says that her school started the art program last fall, and they’re hooked. An Art Road art teacher comes to the school each Wednesday throughout the entire school year. “The kids, the teachers and the parents are very excited about the program,” notes Davis.
She says that Wednesday attendance at the school has increased since Art Road started. “The students don’t want to miss it.”
Beverly Green, principal at Edison Elementary School, says that Art Road student art is always on display at her school, in the classrooms, at special events, and in the hallways. “They’re very proud of their work,” says Green. “They want it to be seen.”
Art instructor Melissa Anthony, a Cranbrook Art Academy graduate herself concurs with Green. “It’s wonderful to see the student art on display here. People need to see their work.” She noted that the backdrop for the speakers – a 10 x 12 foot canvas painted with a colorful grouping of bodies, color and words – was created by 5th grade students. “They conceptualized it with me, and then they just pumped it out on their own. They were mature and focused and amazing,” says Anthony. “They’re so eager to learn.”
Art Road board member Todd Patrick, home designer and artist, was particularly proud of one collaborative Art Road piece on display at the event. He worked with students to create an “art dog,” where the children cut shapes to glue onto the paper mache dog sculpture. “It was a great example of collaboration, and it’s a huge confidence builder for children when they are part of a larger-scale project.”
Patrick was glad to see the engaged crowd at the event as well. “When professionals have conversations about our art program, whether they are digital designers, engineers, or architects, they realize that they wouldn’t be in the jobs they’re in now if they hadn’t had art classes.”
Many Art Road volunteers and donors were also in attendance. April Jennings, of Brightwing, says that her firm has been involved with Art Road as financial contributors through Art Road’s ARTNER program and as volunteers. “Everyone has taken their teams out to volunteer in the classroom,” notes Jennings. “On a personal level, it makes them feel good. On a professional level, it’s great team building.”
Meghan Marotta, a recruiter at Brightwing, said her volunteer experience was really rewarding and she was impressed by Brightwing’s willingness to provide paid time for volunteering. “I love kids, and I’m super creative, so anything with kids and arts and crafts, I like,” says Marotta. “I liked hearing the students talking about wanting to be art teachers when they grew up – and I liked to see how engaged the teachers were too.”
Vince Lopez, the general manager at Mitchell’s Fish Market in Livonia has supported Art Road personally and through the restaurant for many years, and he, too has gotten his employees engaged and involved. “When I first heard what Carol (Carol Hofgartner, Art Road founder) was doing, it brought tears to my eyes.” Lopez says that when Mitchell’s hosts employee outings, like picnics or bowling parties, “we ask everyone to bring something for art classes.” He said a group of waiters once pooled their tips and bought an entire case of crayons.
Jack Ferry, media relations manager for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, also in attendance at the art celebration, appreciated the mix of elementary student and graduate student artwork: “It’s great to have them both together in one room.” Ferry says that Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has been supporting Art Road for five or six years. “It’s a great mission that Carol and Stephen (Stephen Hofgartner, Art Road operations manager) are on to bring art back to public schools, and we support that.”
While supporting arts programming and education, and displaying art is one of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services main volunteer and philanthropic causes across North America, what’s found at the Farmington Hills facility is unique. “We have close art relationships in all our locations,” notes Zieringer. “But here, it’s smashing.”
For more information on Art Road, to become an ARTNER, or to volunteer in an Art Road classroom contact Carol Hofgartner at (313) 407-9805 or email@example.com.