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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School & the Grand Marais Art Colony team up to fill need for art classes; create exhibit

May 24, 2023 08:48AM ● By Content Editor
All photos by Laura Durenberger-Grunow

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - May 24, 2023

On a sunny day in May, Cook County School District 166 parents, students, and community members filed into the Grand Marais Art Colony for a special 2-day exhibit opening. 

It was an art exhibit unlike one that you would normally see. The reason? It was comprised of almost 240 pieces created by 80 K-2 Sawtooth Mountain Elementary students. 

 Sawtooth Mountain Elementary students, parents, and community members gathered to view the students art

The exhibit was the result of a partnership between Sawtooth Elementary and the Grand Marais Art Colony - thanks to a grant from the Cook County School District 166 Education Foundation, which has a mission to offer unique experiences for students through innovative instruction and co-curricular programs which are unable to be funded by ISD 166 or other sources. 

Stephanie Lindstrom, a 1st-grade teacher at Sawtooth Mountain Elementary, was the instigator for the partnership and applied for the grant after learning that there would be no art classes for the 2022-2023 school year. 

“There are many foundational art skills that children learn in K-2 and I didn’t want our students to miss out on that opportunity.  When students create, they often bridge that creativity into other areas and take more risks,” she said. 


Lindstrom already had prior experience working with the art colony when she taught Kindergarten a few years ago. 

“My Kindergarten classes were able to attend classes at the Grand Marais Art Colony sponsored by PTA.  We did felting, and stamp-making with different materials. It was an amazing experience to have with my students. After that, I have kept in touch with the Art Colony Director, Ruth Pszwaro, and am continuously looking for ways to collaborate with them.” 

The Art Colony was able to recruit artist-in-residence Allison Healy to instruct the students. Healy is an illustrator, designer, and woodworker from Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. According to her bio, “Her work has appeared in many publications such as book covers, children’s books, magazines, album covers, and applied graphics on various products for both print and web. Before returning to Minnesota, she taught youth classes in visual art and woodworking at the Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts in Boston.”


The students met with Healy at the Art Colony three separate times starting in February 2023. 

Each visit resulted in a different project using different materials and skills. 

The visits were very successful, and it was Healy and Pszwaro who came up with the idea to do the exhibit. 


Lindstrom shared that “The Art Colony took it upon themselves to install and curate close to 240 pieces of art created by Sawtooth Mountain Elementary students! I am amazed at the amount of time and detail that was put into the exhibition. I have received amazing feedback from students on what it felt like to have their Art displayed. It added a level of pride to the experience. One student said “I am a professional now because my art is on display.””

Both the Art Colony and Sawtooth Mountain Elementary staff hope to make the partnership an annual event. However, funding and available artists-in-residences play a factor. 

“The Education Foundation Grant that was received this year was for a one-year program. I am looking for other grants or funding sources to make this a more sustainable program. The Art Colony Director said that she would work with us to figure something out for future years,” she said.


The good news is that there are plans to add art back into the elementary specialist schedule for next year. 

“This continual project created a lot of opportunities for students to create, try new things, and take risks. I enjoyed watching their creativity expand,” Lindstrom said.

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