Seven-year-old Tristan Snyder brought her family to the Grand Wayne Center this weekend to show them something special.
Inside a hut of newspaper and tape was a little clay person resting on his back with his hands behind his head, looking out through the open ceiling.
Snyder said she likes art class, and she was excited to show off her clay creation to family members this weekend at the annual FAME Festival to celebrate student art.
What started as a small event organized in the houses of a few Southwest Allen County art teachers 27 years ago has now reached the hearts and classrooms of thousands of students in northeast Indiana, giving them an opportunity to exercise creative muscles that are getting less attention at schools forced to make budget cuts.
"FAME is something we need because the arts have been neglected in schools," said Dorothy Kittaka, a retired art teacher who helped found the festival about three decades ago.
And students who came out this weekend were fully embracing FAME's purpose, tapping tunes on German glockenspiels and making crafts, such as Dutch windmill pinwheels, at the event's Imaginarium. There was even a station for designing bikes to be put on display alongside IPFW's Sculptures with a Purpose bike racks at the May 17 unveiling.
Along with the hands-on activities, visitors browsed drawings, paintings, and sculptures made by area students. Although snow cancellations put a time crunch on teachers submitting student work this year, the numbers weren't down by much, Kittaka said.
Visitors also enjoyed the artistic expressions in student solos, choir performances, ballet demonstrations and youth theatre. There was even a special performance by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic on Sunday afternoon featuring music composed by area forth graders and arranged by FAME's Composer-In-Residence David Crowe. The Fort Wayne Ballet's Youth Company then choreographed a dance to perform with the music.
The composition project was called "Fire and Ice" to evoke images of the fiery and icy sounds and scenes of volcanic Ireland, a FAME pamphlet said. All of FAME's art this year was focused on the cultural theme of Northwest Europe, and the festival hit just in time to capitalize on Saint Patrick's Day celebrations.
The fun continues with three visiting musicians from the Irish Music School of Chicago performing at 15 locations around town this week, including the Fort Wayne Children's Choir, the Boys and Girls Club and various schools.
"They're going to talk about Ireland and Irish music and teach the kids Irish songs," Kittaka said.
Another way the celebration continues is through FAME Summer Arts Camp July 27 through August 1 for students to spend a week at YMCA Camp Potawatomi and share their artistic talents.
Kittaka said the six-day, five-night experience helps creative students bond and gives them an outlet to express themselves in artistic ways they have less time for during the school year.
"It's a respite for them because, with cuts to schools, they don't have a whole lot of ways to express themselves in class anymore," Kittaka said.