The Children’s Adventure Center, Riverside Road, on Wednesday, January 29, accepted a work of art sent to the town in memory of the first anniversary of 12/14. Given by the school community of the Guadalupe Regional Middle School (GRMS) and the city of Brownsville, Texas, the simple painting is meant to convey the theme of children’s never-ending play, according to GRMS art teacher, Jennifer Rose.
“This theme was chosen to celebrate the young and playful innocence of children,” Ms Rose explained in a letter that accompanied the gift.
A freestanding painting, approximately 6 feet by 4 feet, it depicts two featureless children, one jumping rope and the other riding a skateboard. The figures are made up of geometric shapes, filled in with hundreds of thumbprints dipped in paint, against a bright yellow background.
“The illustration was purposefully rendered in basic geometric shapes, which is very typical in the artwork of young children,” said Ms Rose, and thumbprints allowed each member of the community to personally sent “their support and love,” she said.
Local Brownsville realtor Craig Grove approached Ms Rose in January 2013, she said, asking if her art students could help create a piece for Sandy Hook. He had attended a silent auction featuring images of the Virgin, she said, in the weeks prior to 12/14. “At the event, he saw candles, I think they were a centerpiece, that had a verse printed on them about children and the Virgin Mary,” Ms Rose said in a phone interview with The Newtown Bee.
“The shooting at Sandy Hook resonated with Mr Grove. He remembered that verse [he had seen on the candles] and the connection to children, and he has children, and wanted to do something for [Sandy Hook],” said Ms Rose.
GRMS is a private, tuition-free Catholic school, made up of 77 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. The Virgin Mary of Guadalupe is the school’s namesake, Ms Rose explained. Mr Grove offered to raise funds to cover the supplies and shipping charges.
The basic idea of two children, a boy and a girl, came from Ms Rose, as she brainstormed ideas with students as to what the project should look like. “We thought a mosaic, or a painting, or a drawing. The children and I talked about what would work. Some of them suggested a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but I told them this event didn’t just happen to Catholics, so we wanted to make sure it applied to everyone,” she said.
Neither of the children in the painting have facial details, and their skin color — an unexpected green — was chosen to be racially ambiguous, as well, said the art teacher.
“We decided on green for the skin tone in order to represent one of Sandy Hook’s school colors,” she said.
The Monday following 12/14, GRMS held an all-school assembly to pray for Sandy Hook, Ms Rose said, as most of the students had heard the news over the weekend. Very little encouragement was needed for the children to create a work of art for Sandy Hook, she said. “Part of our mission here is service. Our kids love helping in the community. I don’t know that kids would have come up with the idea of a memorial, but there was not a moment’s hesitation from them when I presented the idea,” Ms Rose said.
By spring of 2013, funding for the project was in place. On the final day of school, Ms Rose set up the project in the school’s courtyard, and each of the students added the personal touch of a thumbprint to the painting. The finishing touches, including the wooden base, were added in the fall, before it was shipped to the Town of Newtown.
The backside of the painting is painted with a red heart bordered by the script “Para Siempre” — Love For Ever. “From our community to yours — Brownsville, Texas” reads the simple message.
“It’s a nice piece to have here,” said preschool teacher Anna Ruggiero, Friday, January 31. “The yellow background goes nicely in our ‘Sunshine Room,’ and it brightens things up.”
The preschoolers are attracted to the figures that are just their size, she said, and love that it is a piece of art that they are allowed to touch.
The more she looked at it, Ms Ruggiero said, the more she came to feel the love put into the creation of the piece. “We appreciate every fingerprint. To have kids from way across the US sending us their fingerprints is wonderful. Each [thumbprint] is its own. It doesn’t belong to anyone else,” she pointed out, “and that’s what makes this special.”