Walker’s Primary School Art Show in its 43rd year

The Walker Primary School kicked off its 43rd Annual Art Show this month. The tradition began in 1982 when then Assistant Kindergarten teacher Sherry Walker-Taylor, who had a background in art, was encouraged to “have a ‘little’ art show.” 

Walker-Taylor’s role at Walker expanded, and so did the Art Show. She oversaw the show for almost 30 years, and for the past 13 years, her daughter, Jessica Whittingham, the Primary School’s Art and Science teacher, has grown the exhibit. This year’s show, with the theme of “Wild World of Sports,” features almost 1,000 pieces of art from 94 students in Early Learners through Kindergarten. 

We asked Whittingham to tell us about the show, which runs through March 28, and is open to all Walker families.

How do you decide the theme?
Mrs. Whittingham: I typically begin brainstorming ideas during the summer and settle on a theme by the beginning of the school year. It is important that I find a theme that will allow for enough different types of projects and to be able to ulitize a wide variety of materials and artistic techniques. We typically have about 55-65 different projects, and I have not yet repeated an Art Show theme.

What are your goals for the Art Show?
Mrs. Whittingham: With any kind of art, my main goal is to support and develop fine motor skills. The greatest thing about art is you can learn new skills and develop fine motor skills using pretty much any kind of project. I always have a list of media and techniques that I want each grade level to have exposure to and types of art I would like everyone to learn about. Once I have my theme and my curriculum goals, I begin figuring out ways to creatively connect them together. I am very purposeful with my planning and often weave aspects of our science curriculum, geography, social studies, and literature into our projects.  

Why is the Art Show so special?
Mrs. Whittingham: An Art Show is the best way to catalog what the children have been creating all year. We start these projects in September, and the Art Show takes place in February, so it represents months of what they have been working on in Art. It is often apparent what students are doing in terms of athletics or what academic milestones they are meeting, but it can sometimes be harder to see what is occurring within the Fine Arts. An Art Show is a time when students can be celebrated as artists and feel that their art is important and valued. It is also an opportunity for other members of the school community to visit the Primary School and appreciate the art work.  The students adore having other classes and teachers come over to see what they have created.

What do the children learn about each project?
Mrs. Whittingham: We begin each new project with a brief presentation and introduction. We start with five fabulous facts about the topic, and then discuss how we are connecting our art project with the given theme. For our theme this year, sports, we learned about the specific sport, discovered where the sport is played, and discussed how the sport would influence our art project. Sports allowed us to learn a great deal about geography and how different parts of the world celebrate athleticism and competition in unique ways.

How long does it take to install the exhibit?
Mrs. Whittingham: I generally put up most of the entire exhibit over a single weekend. I begin creating larger displays the week prior and have many volunteers that come to help, but the vast majority of it is put up over the weekend. My favorite thing is when the students come to school on Monday morning and see the building fully transformed with every single space being filled with amazing artwork. It is fun for them to see what all of the other classes have been working on and to experience the exhibit as a whole. 

How are students involved in the show?
Mrs. Whittingham: In addition to creating the artwork, the students act as docents and tour their families around. We do tours beforehand to prepare them so they know where their artwork is located. The students love being in charge of their grown-ups and helping to show them each piece of art. 

How is the show personalized?
Mrs. Whittingham: Each family receives an invitation inviting them to the opening reception. There is always a personalized guidebook that provides information about the exhibit and details the projects that the individual child worked on. This year each student received a set of sports trading cards with his/her own picture and a take-home swag bag with a water bottle, sweatband, trophy with their name, foam finger, and whistle. I interviewed each child to help compile information to be used as a bio on their sports trading cards and included their birthday and where they grew up. Children always love seeing their names on things, so having those personalized touches means a lot. 

What impression has the Art Show left on you and the Walker community?
Mrs. Whittingham: Students of all ages come back to the building and can remember very specific projects that they worked on for their Art Show and often have such fond memories of when their work was celebrated. I love speaking with families who have artwork from the Primary School framed and on display in their homes. It is a wonderful feeling to see a child’s artwork that I was able to help with still on display so many years later. The artwork they created when they were this age is able to live on. 
  • Main Campus

    700 Cobb Parkway North
    Marietta, GA 30062
  • Primary School

    830 Damar Road
    Marietta, GA 30062
The Walker School is a private, co-ed day school offering opportunities in academics, arts, and athletics for preschool, elementary, middle, and high school students in Metro Atlanta.