Spindleworks Art Center is no stranger to community kindness. Throughout the year we benefit from donated art supplies, monetary contributions, dedicated volunteers and great feedback from visitors about the work we do. These various forms of giving amaze us and fuel us both figuratively and literally. Just when we think we have received the most amazing donation yet, we are surprised by yet another level of kindness. This January, it came in the form of a pizza box lid.
Last September, OTTO Pizza in Portland began receiving the first entries in their ‘Draw Outside of the Box‘ contest, in which young designers from grades K-8 could compete to have their design grace thousands of OTTO pizza boxes throughout Maine and Massachusetts. More than 375 entries were narrowed down by votes on Facebook to just 32 finalists. Five judges then met to decide on the winner. When Ella Trout, an eighth grade home school student, found out her design had won she admitted, “Gosh, I didn’t have this prepared!” Because Ella is home schooled, the $1000 intended for the winner’s school would be donated to “an approved charity or organization with an art component. Charity or organization must be agreed upon by OTTO and the winner.” When Ella gave some thought to what a great art organization in Maine was, she said that Spindleworks came to mind, calling it a “magical place”.
Ella came to visit Spindleworks for the first time this past week, accompanied by her mother Louise. As she stood quietly in the doorway, Louise’s eyes filled with tears as the artists presented Ella with a thank you card and gathered around to take a look at her original drawing that will soon adorn thousands of pizza boxes. After receiving many thanks, questions, and pictures, Ella and Louise were able to sit and talk a bit about the contest and the role art plays in their own lives.
Ella had found out about OTTO’s contest from her younger sister Cecily who attends Breakwater School in Portland. Both young artists decided to submit a design. While this could have been a contentious affair, Louise affirmed that the sisters are very supportive of each other. Ella added, “when I found out I was happy, but at the same time I wish Cecily could have won too.” Not to worry though, Cecily’s talents have also been recognized as her artwork represented her class at the Portland Museum of Art in a recent exhibit., Ella and her sister have clearly grown up in a creative household. Louise said both girls have had sketchbooks since they could walk. As an art teacher herself, Louise provided art activities to the girls from a young age, such as “toe painting.” Ella’s father is a musician and her two grandmothers were also artists (one a weaver, the other a painter). Louise also said that Ella has always had an affinity with people and a place in her heart for individuals with “special needs” so it made sense for her to give the donation to Spindleworks.
Whatever the source or inspiration, Ella has shown not only maturity and generosity for her age, but also an eye for design. Contest judges hailed her winning drawing as “whimsical”, “fantastic,” and a “fully realized” design exhibiting a “great sense of Maine.” OTTO’s designers are currently working on a final version which will soon be printed on thousands of pizza boxes and distributed to all OTTO locations throughout New England.
Closer to home, Spindleworks will be busy putting the $1000 to good use in 2014. While basic art supplies are built into the budget, special projects and programming are made possible by outside contributions. Ella’s donation may turn into the purchase of much needed equipment, visiting artist residencies, upgrades to our beloved but ancient historical building, or even towards field trips beyond Maine.
This mature and bright eyed young artist has inspired all of us at Spindleworks, not only with her talent but with her humility, generosity and kindness. Ella is right – Spindleworks is a magical place, and it is because of people like her, families like hers, and businesses like OTTO.