Portland auction benefits student-led service learning

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PORTLAND — Artists coming together to support community service projects dreamed up by students at the city’s schools is the mission behind the nonprofit Painting for a Purpose.

Created by two retired Portland educators, the organization asks artists to create a variety of whimsical, hand-painted items for its annual auction. The proceeds then fund grants for a number of different service learning projects.

For example, most recently Painting for a Purpose awarded a grant to the woodworking students at Portland Arts and Technology High School to help them build canoe paddles that will be donated to Camp Sunshine.

Under the leadership of Tina Edwards and Jane Ellis, Painting for a Purpose has given out 62 grants totaling more than $28,000 in the past seven years.

All grant applications must be written by students, Edwards said this week. And, the students must identify a need in the community, research the need, and then come up with a plan to address that need in order to be eligible.

Students can receive up to $500 to implement their project, she said.

Projects that received funding last academic year included one at Portland High School, where art students created 2-foot high Japanese lanterns to make the school’s courtyard more welcoming.

In addition, Riverton Elementary School received funds to redevelop its outdoor atrium to make it more inviting and usable, and Lincoln Middle School got money to grow fresh food for the school’s food pantry.

This year’s Painting for a Purpose auction, which features fanciful hand-painted wooden trays, will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2 at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant on the waterfront.

The event features both a silent and live auction as well as appetizers and a cash bar. Tickets are $10 for individuals and $25 for families.

In addition to the hand-painted trays, the live auction will also feature painted chairs, stools, wooden lobsters, mirrors and clocks. The goal for this year’s auction is to raise $8,000.

Each week volunteers, which include art teachers, students, community members and guest artists, meet at Portland High School to get creative, Edwards said. And new members are always welcome.

The whole mission of Painting for a Purpose, she added is to “celebrate the power of art to bring people together and the power of young people to improve their schools and communities.”

“(Kids) have great ideas about how to make a difference (and) we help students make their ideas a reality,” Edwards said. “There’s a real sense of joy in having our art help do good in the world.”

“Through the project implementation process, we also see students learning lessons about teamwork, decision-making, self-confidence, perseverance and planning,” she said.

“We believe that the sooner young people get involved in civic engagement process they will stay involved.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Painting for a Purpose will hold its annual auction on Nov. 2 at DiMillo’s in Portland.