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Virginia Is for Artists

Bonnie Brae students create tributes to Virginia in the form of art.

For several Bonnie Brae Elementary students, a public art exhibit is something they can cross off their life’s to-do lists.

The students found a little fame when Del. David Bulova (D-37) arranged for their work to go on display on the fourth floor of the General Assembly building in Richmond. Bulova came up with the idea with his wife, Gretchen Bulova. The couple noticed artwork by adults on the walls depicting the American Southwest during the last General Assembly session. Gretchen Bulova said the work was lovely, but they both thought it would be great to incorporate Virginia’s 400th anniversary with some artwork by children for the 2007 session.

“We thought we would really be missing an opportunity here,” said Gretchen Bulova. “We thought: all of the fourth-graders in Virginia are learning about the history of the state; that’s what should be up on the walls.”

They asked the art teachers at Bonnie Brae if they’d be interested in assigning the project to their students, since Bonnie Brae is in the center of David Bulova’s district. Kristofer Johnson, one of the art teachers at Bonnie Brae, said the children were excited to participate since the statewide curriculum for fourth-grade students includes Virginia’s history.

“The response was tremendous,” said David Bulova. “Over 40 students created absolutely beautiful artwork depicting the best about Virginia.”

Bulova had a reception for the children, their families and several school officials, Saturday, Jan. 27, in Richmond. The students’ artwork lines the walls in the building, paying tribute to the state’s flower, bird, history, landscapes and regions.

“It makes everyone around here so happy to see these [pictures] up on the walls,” said David Bulova.

Lacey Bowman, another Bonnie Brae art teacher, said the students came up with a lot of creative ideas. They created drawings, paintings and prints. The students brainstormed together to come up with different ideas for the art.

“We problem solved on how to show a symbol and how to get people to understand that it had to do with Virginia,” said Bowman. “They came up with all of this stuff that I didn’t even know about.”

From Virginia’s five regions— valley, northern, central, coast and mountain — to its symbols and historic significance, the students represented just about everything. The American Dogwood, Virginia’s state flower and tree, was a popular subject for the art, said Bowman.

“It was amazing to see all the different tributes shown in various media,” said Kathy Bruce, principal at Bonnie Brae.

Bruce, Johnson, Bowman and School Board Members Tessie Wilson (Braddock) and Janet Oleszek (At-large) all went to Richmond for the reception. The children were excited to receive all of the recognition, said Bowman.

“They felt really honored,” said Johnson. “Some kids brought their whole families.”

After checking out the art exhibit, David Bulova gave the children a tour of the General Assembly building. Bruce said the students were “given the royal treatment.” David Bulova led the students in a mock assembly, where they all voted on a bill. The turnout was so great that everyone nearly filled up the House floor, he said.