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CARES artist grant beautifies school, helps local artist

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Beautiful artwork has been created at Harriet Bishop Elementary School over the past few weeks.

A shed was built last year so the students could store their playground equipment. It sat brown and boring. Making it more beautiful was always the plan. Like most things this year, though, the pandemic affected the plans.

When the CARES Artist Grant became available, the school's PTA got an idea to help create a job for a local artist and also beautify the school for students.

"The CARES art grant came through, and a woman from our community posted it on our page," Harriet Bishop Elementary PTA President Jana Miller said. "She was wondering about having a mural in the manor somewhere and I was like, 'hmm, I don't know where we would put the mural, because there's not that many surfaces.' But I said 'hey, I have this shed that needs to be painted at the school.' So, it actually worked out really great."

They found local artist Amarama Vercnocke to spearhead the project. She went from having a very successful art business to losing about 90% of her monthly income because of the pandemic. This was difficult for the mother of three.

"I've applied three times for unemployment and was denied every time," Vercnocke said. "So this is really helping out a lot of artists and there's a lot of us in that same situation. The cool thing about the CARES art grant is that it's helping activate people who have had a hard time finding jobs. It's almost like a modern day version of when after the Great Depression, people were put to work."

More than 40 Harriet Bishop students and their families helped with painting the shed and the two ga-ga ball pits Sunday.

The shed and ga-ga ball pits have have vibrant colors combined with trees, flowers and the school's bulldog mascot. Vercnocke painted some parts of the shed with glow-in-the-dark paint so it will light up at night for the students to enjoy.

"The thing that I really love about this program is that I get to work with the community," Vercnocke said.

On Wednesday, more people helped throughout the afternoon. The project is expected to be completed soon.

Megan Zemple

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