For many travelers on the road, a hotel stay is a momentary refuge. Few have the time or opportunity to connect intimately with the community they are passing through. Guests of SpringHill Suites get a special insight, however, with SaveArt! This program gives both guests and residents of Bellingham a chance to engage with our community by supporting a local school in need.

Guests and local residents are welcome to donate to the SaveArt! program in the SpringHill Suites lobby. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

Now in its fourth year, the SaveArt! program is a community service partnership between SpringHill Suites by Marriott and the non-profit organization, Fresh Artists. Brought about to help ease the strain that shrinking school budgets have on their art programs, this fundraiser puts together kits of art materials and creative project guides for teachers.

SpringHill Suites has partnered with Alderwood Elementary in the past, and is now working with Cordata Elementary for their third year. “We’ve raised around $2,000 each year so far, and given the schools art kits as well as checks to use as they see fit for their art program. This year I’m really hoping that we can reach our goal of raising more. We’re aiming for $2,500,” says Keith Coleman, General Manager of SpringHill Suites on Northwest Avenue in Bellingham.

The program partners with schools where 70 percent or more of their students qualify for free or reduced-price hot lunches, a common metric used to gauge poverty levels. According to Fresh Artists, it is these schools that are most at risk for their art program funding to be reduced or eliminated entirely.

A rainy afternoon at Cordata Elementary School where children wait inside for their families. The majority of Cordata students qualify for free school lunches, a metric used to delineate poverty levels. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

“At Cordata, there is no specific funding for art supplies,” says Analisa Ficklin, Principal of Cordata Elementary School. “We have a budget for general classroom supplies, and art supplies are expected to come from that. However, some supplies are prohibitively expensive – things like water color paper and glazes for pottery. The SaveArt! program really helps us give children those special supplies we wouldn’t otherwise.”

For Ficklin, a child’s access to the arts is integral to providing a balanced education. “Bellingham Public Schools hold themselves to the Bellingham Promise. We hope for all children to reach their potential, to be strong leaders and find their gift. In that, we believe nurturing the whole child is important, which includes fostering their expression in the arts.”

“Currently our art program is taught through the general education curriculums,” says Ficklin. “Individual classrooms each have their own projects and it’s up to the teachers. Cordata is also very lucky in that we have a nice kiln, so clay projects are very popular here.” The art supplies given will allow those teachers to plan a variety of projects, and hopefully inspire each student’s creativity.

“There’s a little bit of everything in the kits,” says Keith Coleman. “Crayons, paper, scissors, paints. Really anything that the school has no budget for.” There’s even recycled paint color samples that can be used for mosaics and collages.

Families are welcomed to Cordata Elementary School with the vibrant colors and textures of children’s artwork. Some of the art supplies from the SaveArt! kits includes paints, markers and cray-pas. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

The SaveArt! program is part of a country-wide fundraising campaign to gather together art supplies for underfunded schools local to each hotel. Over the past four years the program has raised over $250,000 nationally, supporting 533 schools in 43 states.

Supporting the arts is a company mission for SpringHill Suites that stretches beyond the current SaveArt! fundraiser. The brand has rolled out an “Art of Local” series, where their hotels showcase local craft, music and even food as a way to introduce guests to the community they’re visiting and set them up for further engagement there. For our local SpringHill Suites, this includes a partnership with the Allied Arts of Whatcom County in October for their Art Night event, which transformed the hotel’s lobby into a gallery space, providing local artists the opportunity to showcase their work.

The fundraising portion of the program runs through December 31. The amount raised will be used to prepare art kits that will be shared with school children during the winter season. To support the SaveArt! program, locals can drop by the SpringHill Suites lobby and fill out a donation card, or check in with their Facebook page for a coming link to donate.

“At Cordata, we really rely on our community partners – those who help support us and volunteer with us. We just have a huge appreciation for that,” says Ficklin.

For Coleman, “The real reward of the fundraiser is just getting to see the children’s thrill in person when we deliver the supplies to the school.”

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