Lake Tahoe Paint and Sip brings instructional painting to Tahoe Valley Elementary School |

Lake Tahoe Paint and Sip brings instructional painting to Tahoe Valley Elementary School

Claire Cudahy

“Now take your brush and use the blue paint to cover the top part of your canvas,” says artist Craig Newman to a group of eager third-grade students at Tahoe Valley Elementary School.

In the library, the students are seated in front of individual easels and canvases. They watch as Newman shows them how to make sweeping, even brush strokes for the sky in a painting that will eventually depict a giraffe on the plains.

“What can you tell me about giraffes?” he says.

“They have long necks!” chimes in one student without looking up from the start of his painting.

Thanks to donated time from Lake Tahoe Paint and Sip, students at Tahoe Valley are learning step-by-step how to create their own paintings in two-hour sessions.

“I just really want to bring art back to the school and add something positive,” said Dawnda Smith, owner of the business. “My goal is to do this in every school in Tahoe.”

Lake Tahoe Paint and Sip is based out of Ski Run Marina. In the studio, Newman and several other artists guide participants through painting with the option to enjoy “liquid inspiration” from the on-site bar.

But this year Smith wanted to bring that same instruction to students, many of whom have never had the opportunity to use acrylic paint or canvases before.

“One of the students said ‘it feels like we’re in an artists studio,’” said third-grade teacher Patty Kiger. “Another one said ‘I used to not like art, now I love art.’ So it’s really sweet. They are clearly really enjoying this.”

Across the country, budget cuts are impacting arts programs in schools.

“Over the years with limited funding, the money has had to go more to just the basics like math and reading,” said Tahoe Valley Elementary Principal Christina Grubbs. “State funding changed so even our core instructional materials had to come out of our general budget, so that takes away more opportunities we could possibly provide to these kids.”

At the end of the school year after all of the classes have participated in the program, they will hold an art show.

“You can see the common themes in the paintings, but the individuality just shines,” said Grubbs. “One of the first graders said, ‘this makes my heart so happy.’ This is a life memory that they will always have.”

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