When Dacia Dauner of Bemidji applied for a grant from the Bemidji Area Early Childhood Initiative, she already knew she would focus on developing creativity in children with drawing and painting but with what she calls "open-ended art."
Dauner then approached Paul Ericsson, branch manager of the Bemidji Public Library to ask if they would be able to display the artwork at the completion of the grant project.
The 100 pieces of art on the library wall are by youngsters ages 2- 6 from the 20 Bemidji area childcare providers. The twist is that they used wax (crayon) resist with watercolor paints and tempera paints mixed with salt and shaken over the top of the water. There are some serious young artists' work and many pieces of "just for fun" pieces.
"The children seemed to enjoy both methods," said Dauner. "The 2-to-3-year-olds really seemed to like to shake, shake, shake. The older kids could press harder with the white crayon and then they put liquid watercolor over it."
There are 20 providers such as Campus Childcare Center at Bemidji State University, Growing Tree at Trinity Lutheran Church and Headstart Wrap Around, Calvary Lutheran Pre-school and smaller private childcare providers.
"They (the providers) went through the initial training with me on open-ended art and how important it is." said Dauner, who has an Early Childhood degree and parent education licensure. She was also the previous director a Campus Childcare Center for seven years.
"We frequently get patrons who come into the library and are absolutely thrilled to see new art work up on the wall," said Ericsson. "I think we get more comments from people when we have art from youngsters. I think there is just something special about seeing art work and creativity of young children."
There is a big difference between the pre-packaged art projects that the library offers and the creativity of this project which focuses on the process and not the product said Dauner and Ericsson.
The Bemidji Early Childhood Initiative is a group made up of agencies in the area and parents and other community members are welcome as well. BECI is under the umbrella of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation as are a few other ECI's in the area, for example Bagley. ECI's are around the state of Minnesota and there is more information on line about the initiative in early childhood enrichment. It is a collaborative effort of professionals in the community in pre-K in an enrichment campaign for the youngest children.
The Bemidji Public Library is also on BECI board and an example of its involvement was FRED (Fathers Reading Every Day) that was held this summer and sponsored through the BECI. FRED was a statewide initiative, for which there was funding, but those sources have dried up. However, the Bemidji Public Library will continue this program on its own with many small events rather than one large event a year.
"The whole point of the program is to show that fathers should be reading in the home, modeling for the child," said Ericsson.