PIEDMONT -- With March designated "Art IS Education Month" by Alameda County, a Piedmont organization is quietly continuing to fund the arts in the city's public schools to the tune of about $50,000 each year.
PAINTS, which stands for Promote Art in the Schools, is also expanding its mission from the traditional visual arts to include digital tools for an upcoming generation of artists.
"It was a new direction because it's not traditionally a fine arts tool," said Hilary Davis, the group's board member for grants.
The volunteer-run organization, now in its 24th year, funds arts education for schools in the Piedmont district, mostly through grants for specific projects, with more than $20,000 given out so far this school year. PAINTS also awards a per-student stipend to each school, which adds up to about another $20,000. The nonprofit also supports professional development for arts educators and sponsors events such as the yearly chalk festival.
While schools have traditionally used the grant money for everything from basket-weaving supplies to brushes and paper, new tools for a new generation are becoming necessary. This year, Piedmont High School received more than $3,000 for digital art and photography equipment and more than $5,000 for computer monitors.
"This is the new canvas," Davis said. "This is the new tool students use to create."
On the more traditional end, PAINTS also funded a new kiln for the high school with another grant of close to $5,000. Davis, who has been volunteering with PAINTS for four years, said the organization has handed out more than $200,000 in that period. Some of her favorite projects were the mosaic tile murals at Havens and Wildwood elementary schools. With two grants of $15,000, the children, working under mosaic artists, created vibrant scenes that are permanently mounted at the schools.
Parents of schoolchildren are encouraged to join PAINTS when they register for school, and money for the grants is raised from the organization's members. PAINTS also hosts an annual party and silent auction that brings in a significant amount of money.
"That's our big fundraiser," Davis said.
All that fundraising and event planning requires a great deal of volunteer hours, but the tightly knit Piedmont public school community makes it possible for the group to supplement schools' increasingly tight budgets.
"We so much believe in art in the schools," Davis said.