I volunteered for an "Art Fair" at Louie's school where kids' paintings were displayed in real frames for all to see. It was a cute set up, nice black frames set up on modified easel, a man with white gloves carrying the purchased art to the checkout, and was completed with classical music playing in the background.
It was the first time the event was held by the school and after talking to the chair of the event, I gathered that they scheduled the fair as a "last hurrah" for the art department, in case the levy failed and the art department was no longer. The levy did pass (thank goodness!), but the event went on because the PTO believes that art is something that should be encouraged and appreciated.
At $30.91 a pop.
That's what the framed art by your student was going for. I'm guessing that this art fair is somewhat of a franchise, where people come into your school, set up the fair, provide the frames, run the event and make money off the event. What amazed me is how many families were actually purchasing the frames! Believe me, I love my kids art as much as the next mom, but I'm not going to spend that much money on a frame that I can get at ikea for a quarter of that price.
But the frames weren't what really got me. My job for the evening was running the art project table. There were two options: 1) make a mask using some provided supplies and an idea sheet; or 2) using provided materials, make a family portrait using paper-doll like characters and paste them onto a paper frame. Both were very cute projects, the kids thought that they were awesome, and those who participated had a good time making them.
My issue was that each project cost $3 and I had to watch many kids run up to the table, only to turn away downtrodden because they didn't have the money. Now, I know that to most of you $3 isn't a lot of cash (and honestly, the projects weren't worth that much), but for many families it is. I heard a boy who was working on a mask say to the mom of his friend who wasn't making a mask, "Can't you buy him a ticket? It's only three dollars!" She in turn said that she's out of work now and doesn't have extra money to spare. It broke my heart.
I may be making a bigger deal out of this than I should, but if the reason you're having an event like this is to celebrate art and encourage kids to create then you should make it accessible to all of them. Why not have some tables set up with projects that you could possibly make from items at home? Have people donate paper and ribbons, magazines and glue--there are so many things that kids can create in the name of art that does not have to be expensive. They don't have to buy the "special" art supplies that were for sale along side the overpriced frames. Many kids have a limited time of creating before their self-consciousness kicks in and says that what they make isn't any good. Why not try to nurture that by showing them ways to make art that can be created from what they already have?