Kids Paint the Town Thrives in East Bay

"Kids Paint the Town", the innovative Children’s art project formulated by Jennifer Rogers while taking Landmark Education’s SELP program in the fall of 2007, has continued to thrive and has been featured prominently in the San Jose Mercury News and the Alameda Journal. The project, which takes children’s art and has it displayed in storefront windows in the East Bay area in California, featured different East Bay displays of children’s artwork as it expanded in the spring of last year. The newspaper story talks to Rogers about the origins of the project and the satisfaction she has received from its success.

Island woman puts spotlight on children’s artwork

by Maya Mirsky

Jennifer Rogers is a woman who finds inspiration in unusual places — like the day she had her wallet stolen.

While she was working at the East Bay Monthly magazine, some kids from a local school came in. One struck up a conversation with Rogers, asking whether children’s art was ever featured on the cover, while a second kid nabbed her wallet.

So Rogers did two things. She went through the school to get her wallet back — then started a children’s art contest at the magazine.

"I still liked the idea," she said with a laugh.

Now the 35-year-old Rogers is the main organizer and driving spirit of Kids Paint the Town, a biannual hanging of children’s art in shop windows around the East Bay.

"When I heard her idea, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I wish I’d thought of it, it’s so brilliant,’"‰" said Rae Holzman, director of programs at Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art, which partners with Rogers on the event.

This spring marks the fourth time Rogers has organized the showcase, which has doubled in size from last year. Through the month of April some 400 pieces of art are displayed in the windows of participating merchants, mostly along College Avenue in Oakland and Berkeley.

"It’s a great opportunity for the kids to just have a little moment in the sun," Holzman said.

Rogers came up with the idea for Kids Paint the Town for a class project at Landmark Education, which offers motivational courses. She wanted to find something that would benefit everyone, from the kids who see their art on the street to the passers-by who check it out.

Rogers also wanted to involve a community of merchants she had come to respect from her work at the East Bay Monthly.

"It seems like a genuine win for everybody," she said.

Standing in front of an empty storefront in Emeryville’s Bay Street mall, Rogers peers at the mosaic self-portraits made by local secondary students and submitted by their teacher.

"It was just so exciting to see what she got out of these kids," Rogers said.

This kind of fulfillment is the only way Rogers, who organizes the showcase on a volunteer basis, gets paid.

She relies on volunteer assistance to hang the art, plus materials from sponsors including the East Bay Monthly, BLICK art supply store, Miraglia Catering, Trader Joe’s, Dreyer’s Ice Cream, Zachary’s Pizza, Fastsigns and Pro Arts. The Museum of Children’s Art works with the teachers and handles mounting and cataloging the art.

"It was my after work, weekend, vacation day project," Rogers said.

Although most of the art is hanging in Oakland, Rogers is an Alameda resident who moved to the Island four years ago.

"It had a slow feeling that I appreciated," she said.

This spring she put children’s art up at Trader Joe’s and an empty storefront in Alameda’s Town Centre, which is celebrating its own arts day Sunday.

She’d like to do more, however, and only a lack of time and money is keeping Rogers from expanding further on the Island and in other shopping areas like Berkeley’s Solano Avenue or Oakland’s Montclair Village.

"I’d love to, but at this point I need help," she said.

She’s working on applying for grants to cover administrative and material costs, but for now it’s pure enjoyment that has kept her going, already planning for November’s session of Kids Paint the Town.

"I just loved it so much that I have stuck with it," said Rogers. "It feels good."

Be sure to check out Landmark Education News’ previous stories about Rogers and her project.

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