Several people gather and create art in a cafeteria

Families paint and eat pizza in the Whitesville Elementary School (Daviess County) cafeteria during the family painting night. Photo by Tricia Murphy

Whitesville Elementary School (Daviess County) is not just a place of learning; it’s a place of community and family. An event that exemplifies this spirit of togetherness for the school is Family Painting Night. This unique gathering provided families an opportunity to unleash their creativity while contributing to the school’s vibrant atmosphere.

The concept was simple, yet powerful: for $25, families could paint a ceiling tile to display in the cafeteria at Whitesville. Each tile became a canvas for imagination; a symbol of the collective efforts of students, parents, and faculty to beautify their shared space. Families were able to choose from three different designs and preorder a tile traced with their chosen template.

The idea came from parent Brooke Payne, during one of Principal Tricia Murphy’s “Dinner with Dr. Murphy” nights.

“We were asked to brainstorm fundraising ideas for Project Playground. There were so many great ideas! Some traditional, some out of the box,” said Payne. “I went home that night and immediately started looking on Pinterest! I found a blog post about a mom, whose PTA hosted a paint-a-tile night. I shared it with Dr. Murphy the next day!”

The idea grew from there. The goal was simple: to raise money for playground improvements and bring people together to grow the strong family culture of Whitesville.

A girl stands over an animal's paw that she painted on a canvas

Whitesville Elementary Kindergartner Elsie Alsip stands by her completed ceiling tile.
Photo by Tricia Murphy

What made this event truly special was its focus on inclusivity. Whitesville Elementary prides itself on being a Family Friendly School, and Family Painting Night exemplified this by welcoming participants of all ages and skill levels. A total of 85 ceiling tiles were sold and painted, with approximately 150 students and family members attending. Whether it was a preschooler wielding a paintbrush for the first time or a seasoned artist adding their expertise, everyone had a role to play in the creation of these vibrant works of art.

Throughout the evening, parents offered guidance and encouragement to their children, fostering a sense of collaboration and support. Meanwhile, students eagerly shared their visions for their respective tiles, delighting in the opportunity to express themselves in a new medium. Ms. Payne said “The night was better than I could have ever planned. The way Mr. Vogel had this set up and organized; it couldn’t have been more perfect! I don’t see myself as being a very crafty or artsy person, so I just let my daughter do her own thing and helped where she told me to. Towards the end of the night, walking around, seeing everyone’s tiles, I was amazed.”

Beyond its social benefits, Family Painting Night also had a tangible impact on the school environment. The finished ceiling tiles added a pop of color and personality to the otherwise blank ceiling space, transforming each one into a showcase of creativity and community pride. As students returned to school the following day, they were greeted by a visual reminder of the bonds that unite them as part of the Whitesville Elementary family.

Moreover, the event served as a valuable fundraiser for the school, with proceeds going towards the playground improvement that directly benefits students. By harnessing the power of creativity, Whitesville Elementary was able to not only foster a sense of community but also support its ongoing mission to provide enriching opportunities for all.

In the end, Family Painting Night at Whitesville Elementary was more than just an evening of artistic expression; it was a celebration of family, community, and the transformative power of creativity. With the Daviess County Public Schools district-wide goal of connecting standards, Family Painting Night gave students the opportunity to experience art that can be created outside of the classroom setting and enhance a shared community space.

Anchor Standard 10 in the Visual Arts section of the current Kentucky Academic Standards for Visual & Performing Arts has an essential question of “How do people contribute to awareness and understanding of their lives and the lives of their communities through art-making?”. Inclusion of our community is an essential component to the small school culture of Whitesville Elementary that creates life-long learning and collaboration opportunities for students and families.

By coming together to paint ceiling tiles, families not only left their mark on the school but also created lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come.

As the colorful tiles now adorn the ceilings of the Whitesville Elementary cafeteria, they serve as a testament to the spirit of unity, collaboration, and leadership that defines this school.

John Vogel is the art teacher at Whitesville Elementary School (Daviess County). He is the current elementary division leader for the Kentucky Art Education Association.