Sept. 14, 2022
A walk or drive down Main Street in downtown Bexley finds the colorful artwork of 186 young students on display on the city’s light poles.
A total of 50 banners were designed by fifth-graders from Bexley elementary school students over two months last school year. The banners were installed by the city in late July and will be removed soon.
The brainchild of art teacher Ben Pinciotti, who teaches at Cassingham Elementary School, said he was inspired during the pandemic months when much of teachers’ interaction with students was via Zoom.
“When the pandemic hit, I felt for small businesses that were struggling,” Mr. Pinciotti said. “I wanted to create a way for small businesses in Bexley to be highlighted for what they do for the community.”
One of the first ways the schools’ art program supported the community was through the Bexley Thank You Challenge, when students made signs and banners thanking others, including the police, nurses, and city services staff.
When students returned to classrooms last school year, he worked with Emily Reiser and Lisa Viney, his colleagues at the other two elementary schools, to develop a unique art project to highlight the community.
Working with information from a previous business-community project, Mr. Pinciotti contacted Bexley small business owners to ask for their support for the banner project. What he asked of them wasn’t money. “We needed their time,” he said.
While the end result was 50 colorful and creative banners representing Bexley businesses, the students learned more than just refining their artistry.
Offering lessons in graphic design and marketing, the project brought the students together with local businesses. Working in groups of four, all fifth-graders in each elementary school participated in the project, which involved interviewing business owners, reviewing the businesses’ websites, assessing the information, brainstorming the best way to depict the business, and collaborating with each other to create the artwork.
“It was important for kids to feel the connection with the businesses,” Mr. Pinciotti explained. “They learned things many hadn’t learned before – how to collaborate, how to communicate, how to interview, and even how to work with adults.”
The last step was for the students to revel in their final products adorning Main Street. Each banner shows the students’ artwork on one side, and the first names of those who worked on that banner printed on the back side.
The printing of the banners was possible through the generosity of the Bexley Education Foundation. Mr. Pinciotti said he approached the BEF during the summer of 2021 to gauge its interest. He said he received a resounding “yes, we’re in” from the foundation’s executive director Pam Glasgow.
“The Bexley Education Foundation is always interested in funding teacher-initiated projects and especially those that involve students at multiple schools,” Ms. Glasgow said.
She explained, “This project had so many creative and learning opportunities for students and a unique partnership with local businesses that we were happy to support with a $5,000 grant to ensure that every banner created by a student team would be displayed along Main Street.” Many of the businesses, she said, also contributed financially to the project.
Collaborating with the city and showcasing Bexley small businesses remained objectives through each step of this unique project. “The Bexley community is such a strong supporter of our schools,” said Superintendent Jason Fine. “We’re proud of this tremendous effort by our teachers to connect our young students with local businesses and the community. It’s a great lesson in civic engagement.”