Community members Terry and Lauree Frett were early participants in Tile-A-Mile. After their experience they chose to sponsor the scholarship fund establishing the Gene Frett Visual Art Scholarship in honor of Terry's dad, who worked for Binney Smith (Crayola) selling art supplies to teachers. The generosity of the Fretts freed us from needing to always be raising money to support the fund. Tile-A-Mile has become an all ages celebration of visual art that many community members look forward to. Families bring their children making tiles they know their child will walk under at the high school when they grow up and become students there. People come to the event and stay for an hour or more participating in painting tiles, bidding on silent auction items and purchasing raffle tickets. They also enjoy delicious baked goods made by the art club and donated coffee courtesy of Malabar Coast, our local coffee shop. The participants value the cross-generational camaraderie and hands-on fun, somewhat rare in this plugged in world.
Tile-A-Mile is a learning experience for high school Art Club students employed to run the event. Students participate by making baked goods, designing original works of art, hosting face painting and helping participants paint their tiles. Students also assist the adult volunteers with set-up and clean up. This year Art Club members began their planning efforts in December by choosing a theme for the original art to be donated to the silent auction. My husband donated wooden stools which were transformed into beautifully painted art pieces highlighting the folk art patterns and themes of diverse cultures including from Native American to Japanese. Students researched the culture chosen and then designed their stool based on their research. At the event the bidding wars in the final minutes were fun for students to watch as participants eagerly sought to purchase student works of art. It was pretty cool for the young artists to be able to say they sold their first work of art!
The planning of the event involves parent volunteers too, giving me the opportunity to form valuable partnerships. Volunteer work starts two months before the event as they secure donated items from local businesses. This year the items donated were exceptional including an autographed Green Bay Packers football, dinner gift certificates, tickets to local sporting events, theatre performances and museums. The raffle raises almost as much money as the tile painting. People get really excited for the raffle. Having parents organize it is extremely helpful. Parents also come in a few nights before the event and help to assemble all the donations into themed baskets that appeal to Tile-A-Mile participants. Partnering with the many area businesses is an added bonus as many of them have supported us each year with donations and some have chosen to bring their families and participate in the event too.
Creating a sense of community with my K12 Art colleagues is another benefit of the event. Their support working for the day includes clay wheel throwing demonstrations, hands-on make and take crafts and running the ovens to bake the tiles as people complete them. Having so many varied art activities happening all at once creates a tremendous energy. Many members of the school community also attend including teachers, administrators and school board members. All bring their families and enjoy the low key, high happiness energy of making art together.
Tile-A-Mile raised $2500.00 this year, but the money is only part of the story. Tile-A-Mile is a fun-filled event bringing the community together to generate warmth during the doldrums of winter through creativity and generosity. It is well worth the effort and creates a memorable experience for all who participate.