by Mari Sanders
Did you know there is a program in the Walla Walla Valley that brings art presentations and projects to every elementary school child three times a year?
Did you know that this program serves over 3,000 children and is staffed with over 60 volunteers, who donate over 1,500 hours per year?
Did you know this program is called Carnegie Picture Lab?
Carnegie Picture Lab, formerly known as the Carnegie Art Center’s Picture Lady Program, is a non-profit volunteer-led organization founded in the early 1970’s, which provides art education to children in the Walla Walla Valley from Kindergarten through 5th grade.
The concept of bringing arts education to Walla Walla’s elementary school students is not new. The Picture Lady Program has been presenting art history lectures in second grade classrooms for over 30 years. In 2008, Augusta Farnum was approached by the Carnegie Art Center Board of Directors and asked to take over management of the Program.
Augusta, an artist herself and a parent of two young children, was an ideal choice to lead the cause. She quickly began discussing the idea of expanding the original vision with her friends. It didn’t take long for her to convince a few to join her in managing the Program, with an expanded vision of bringing art history presentations and art projects to all Walla Walla elementary school students three times a school year! The Program’s expansion has been a testament to Augusta’s vision, enthusiasm and her many connections in the community, both in the schools and the Walla Walla arts community.
My involvement with Picture Lab began with a conversation Augusta and I had in 2008. While my children had not yet been participants in the Program, I was aware that Carnegie had volunteers presenting art history lessons in second grade classrooms. I had been a student of a similar program way back in 1980 when I was in the fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Whittier, California. I will never forget the day a volunteer visited my classroom with a large vibrant poster of Monet’s Water Lilies. I don’t know if the volunteer was a man or a woman, young or old, but I remember that poster, and how engaged I was with the art and artist. You can imagine how that memory quickly came back to me when visiting Paris a number of years later and having the opportunity to see the original Water Lilies! Because of those experiences, I was immediately onboard with Augusta’s vision for continuing and expanding the Program in schools. I couldn’t wait to be a classroom volunteer and to be the one holding the poster!
My first presentation was in a first grade classroom. The artist was Wassily Kandinsky, and the project was water color painting to music. I was so excited to see the children’s reactions. Never before had I seen kids encouraged to dance and paint at the same time. It was inspiring! I was hooked and I have been serving on the Board and presenting in
classrooms ever since. Over the last four years, Carnegie Picture Lab has continued to grow and refine the Program. A Board of nine members has embraced the mission of nourishing creativity by supporting and enhancing art education for elementary school
children in the Walla Walla Valley.
There have been many supporters of the Program, including individuals, businesses, and the public and private schools we serve. Picture Lab has also been the recipient of grants from local funders including, Blue Mountain Community Foundation, the Sherwood Trust and Carnegie Art Center Fund for the Arts to name a few. It is because of the vision of the volunteers and the support of our local community that we hope to bring Picture Lab to elementary school classrooms in the Walla Walla Valley for many years to come.