NewsLocal News


Bilingual book of children's artwork raises money to fund local school's art classes

Posted at 10:49 AM, Dec 02, 2019

Before kids head off for winter break, a San Luis Obispo mother and a team of local parents are working to make sure students will have access to artistic enrichment in the New Year and for years to come.

For C.L. Smith Elementary student Max Gutierrez, art class is one of the best parts of school.

"I like to color things," Max said. "My favorite is painting."

Makiyah Nozil calls art class a "fun break" from her regular fourth grade classroom subjects.

"Last week, we learned about Andy Warhol," Makiyah said. "[Art class] is sort of your space to be creative."

However, art classes are at risk of being cut at C.L. Smith Elementary School.

C.L. Smith is one of three Title One schools in San Luis Obispo. Due to the high number of low-income students, the school receives federal dollars to help all students thrive academically.

C.L. Smith principal Aaron Black says those federal funds do not cover enrichment opportunities, including art class.

"Right now, the PTA funds all of our art classes for K through 6," Black said.

PTA member Lindsey Haring says her son gave her an idea for how to fund art education at the school.

"He and his friends had drawn an ice cream cat at school and he came home and created this book of different cat characters," Haring said. "My sister saw it actually and saw the potential for it being a book."

Last summer, Haring pitched the idea to use the book for a fundraising campaign to the C.L. Smith Parent Teacher Association.

"There's a hot dog cat, there's a hamburger cat, there's a lollipop cat, soccer ball cat, music note cat," Haring said, showing off her son Jack's creative and silly feline renditions featured in the book.

The "You Can Be That Cat" book campaign quickly took off.

"Jack drew Cookie Cat, this is his original," said Haring as she held up the drawing. "The illustrator, Melissa Ormonde Guzman, I think she did a really great job of maintaining the kid-like, hand-drawn feel."

The cats help tell a story written in English and Spanish.

"It's educational and it's inclusive so it kind of matches the message of the book," Haring said. "You can be anything you want and we should embrace that and celebrate that and the world in fact needs all different people, in this case, cats."

The C.L. Smith Parent Teacher Association (PTA) aims to raise $30,000 by December 20. With three weeks left of the fundraising campaign, the book's website shows organizers are just $10,000 away from reaching their goal.

"The $30,000 goal is to ensure that nearly 400 kids at C.L. Smith would get 10 art classes a year for the next five years," Haring said.

It's a lasting impact Principal Black says will greatly benefit his students.

"To see [the students] light up and be excited about the project that will help them in the future years is fantastic," Black said. "Someone like Max will have that for the next four years here, so it's a positive thing to watch."

"You Can Be That Cat" will be printed in January. The book is available for pre-order online right now for $25.

For those interested in supporting the initiative further, there are seven levels of giving ranging from $25 to $2,000. Donors who give $250 will have their name printed in the book. Higher levels of giving ensure copies of the book will be given to local classrooms and top donors may also have a custom cat illustrated and included in the book.