By Emily Williams
Once a year, Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights faculty, staff and parents join together to create an event that puts the school’s arts program on display for the entire community.
The Taste of the Heights fundraiser, to be held April 17, initially was created as a way to highlight the school’s yearly art show. The event not only raises funds for the school, it serves a second purpose by giving the students an opportunity to showcase their art to the community.
After years of hosting a student art show in the school’s gym and in the classrooms, art teacher Katie Hicks noticed an opportunity to do something a little different.
“That is when I sat down with Dr. Kay Cooper, our principal at the time, to begin the planning process,” she said.
She reached out to local chef George McMillan of FoodBar to be a judge for a “food-themed” art show. First, second and third place awards are given in each grade. Eventually the idea grew.
Now in its fourth year, Taste of the Heights is a partnership between school and community, highlighting Cahaba Heights’ eateries through tastings and performances by artists from Mason Music, which is owned by a Cahaba Heights family.
Preparation for the event starts at the beginning of the school year, with Hicks choosing a theme for the artwork and cultivating work to showcase through her lesson plan.
“In the art room this year, I have placed a lot of importance on the individual student and their technical artistic ability,” Hicks said. “If you were to visit the art room and sit in a class with us, you would hear words such as, imagine, idea, inform, inspire, influence, illustrate … . All of these words describe the student’s technical and creative process.”
Though one project is chosen for the display, all of the work that the students create is sent home in a portfolio at the end of the school year.
“Our school is very lucky to be in a place that supports all of the wonderful programs that our school has to offer,” she said.
School Principal Alicia Hunsberger said Taste of the Heights is one of her favorite events of the year.
“The opportunity to involve our whole community in an event that showcases student work is rewarding for all of our students,” Hunsberger said. “When we talk about learning, we understand that our students’ greatest motivator is to create for an authentic audience.”
The school partners with Artome, an Atlanta-based company that coordinates art shows for schools. Hicks ships a selection of student work to Artome a month before the show to be mounted and framed.
“It looks so good and the parents and students are so excited to see their artwork on display this way,” Hicks said.
Pieces that aren’t sold by the end of the year are returned to the students.
In addition to a gallery of student artwork, the auction and a book fair included in the evening’s festivities generate funds to pay for extra projects around the school.
“Last year, our fundraiser provided our school with many new resources, including classroom library sets, technology and professional learning for our teachers,” Hunsberger said.
“The VHECH PTO works very hard approaching businesses and restaurants in Vestavia, and we are always so pleased with the great support and participation,” Hicks said. “I think a lot of restaurants that have a table at the event look forward to participating each year because the chefs/restaurant managers really have a chance to meet and talk with their patrons at this event.”
Taste of the Heights will be in the VHECH Gym from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. on April 17.
For more information, visit the Cahaba Heights Elementary PTO Facebook page or their website, vestavia.k12.al.us/Page/2937.