In a night full of creativity and the beauty of art, Valley Oaks Elementary School celebrated the return of its annual Art Show on May 26.

“(I am) very excited,” Assistant Principal Laura Marquez said when asked how she felt to have the event back.

Due to COVID-19, Valley Oaks couldn’t display its students’ art in 2020 or 2021.

“To see the great turnout after two years … after not having done it … clearly, they were ready to come out,” Marquez said of the strong attendance.

With the help of staff members and the PLO group, parent volunteers who help set up and plan out school events, the whole cafeteria was filled with beautiful exhibitions of 6- to 12-year-olds’ artwork. It took students a few weeks to execute their crafts.

The artwork represented many cultures. Dream catchers made by fifth graders helped represent Native Americans. Molas represented the beauty of reverse applique handwork done by the Kuna Indians of Panama. Mexican culture was symbolized through Mexican mirror folk art, which students designed using radial symmetry. The students used materials like crayons, markers, paint, foil and paper to create each piece of art.

The paintings of Frida Kahlo done by teacher Tiffany Lourence’s class seemed to be one of the biggest hits of the night. Displayed in a line, each painting depicted the well-known artist from Mexico.

Parent Gaby Berzin said that the Frida Kahlo paintings stood out to her the most.

“It feels nice seeing that my kids are actually doing art at this school,” Berzin noted.

However, many attendees thought the paintings of Leo the Late Bloomer, a tiger from a children’s book, were the best of all.

“I think they’re each very unique and I like how it’s also different,” attendee Katie Derouen said.

As an artist herself, Derouen mentioned that “it’s nice to see them (her children) and even other kids be, you know, inspired” to create art.

The message behind Leo the Late Bloomer connects to social-emotional lessons. Students were taught that, like Leo, they may not learn something on the first try, but with effort and time, they will realize they, too, can succeed.

Students were excited to see their artwork displayed. Javier Nunoz felt “happy” as he saw his dream catcher hung up. There were also a few students who felt shy seeing their art piece up for everyone to view.

At the corner of the cafeteria, a stand displayed more art from Valley Oaks students. A program, independently funded by a grant, came in for three weeks to show students how to take photos and taught students on how to be conscious media creators.

“They learned things like basic consent,” Jenny Davison, program leader, stated. “And everyone needs to know about consent at this age.” The program also promoted the importance of “ethical storytelling,” said Tamara Knox an expert in the field and a photographer.

“The students all got cameras and we met with them after school Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and half,” Davison noted.

With the help of Valley Oak’s Maker Space, a room for science and tech instruction, many students had the chance to transform their photographs, Davison said, transporting their art “from Hogwarts to Las Vegas” by using the green screen in the Maker Space.

Knox and Davison hope to come back next year after getting a great response from the students. Many students enjoyed the freedom and resources the program provided.