by Theresa Friess · The Enterprise · 11/27/2015

Developing the art of giving – by Theresa Friess – The Enterprise – 11/27/2015


Art is a beautiful expression that is created through someone’s heart and soul. Giving is a beautiful form of art that is only possible through someone’s heart and soul. Put them together and it becomes something special. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Art of Giving at Mother Catherine Academy and how it came to be.


Last year, my husband and I enrolled our three children at Mother Catherine Spalding School. Even though there was talk of the school closing, I knew my family was in the right place at the right time. During the last few months of the school year, they were in need of a substitute art teacher so I took the job, not knowing that this would be the beginning of an experience that would change my life.


I started around the month of March, just in time for Maryland Day. In honor of the first landing and the first Catholic Mass being held on St. Clement’s Island, the students hand-painted the Maryland flag on oyster shells that we collected locally. Each student from prekindergarten through eighth grade participated, and what an incredible job they did.


The Maryland flag is a hard flag to paint, not to mention they did it on such a small scale. As these shells were on display, it hit me that they were too special to have it end there and they had a lot of potential to make a difference. So I introduced the idea to the students to donate their work to two of the local churches to raise money at their upcoming dinners. Not only did they say yes, but they couldn’t wait to hear what our next charity would be.


These hand-painted oyster shells raised $300 combined for these churches. I will never forget the children’s reaction when I announced the news of how much they raised. It was then that I knew that art and giving belonged together, and paired with the art curriculum, it was the perfect program. The Art of Giving was born.


I am now the permanent art teacher at Mother Catherine Academy, our new school, and what a difference I’ve seen in my students since then. They come to class excited to get right to work while doing their best. So far this school year, the students at MCA have donated two refinished side chairs with artistic accessories that were auctioned off to benefit people in need, they handmade and painted life-sized scarecrows for local farmers to simply thank them for all they do, they made and painted pine cone poppies in honor of Veterans Day, and they made beautifully illustrated prayer cards for our soldiers overseas.


After Thanksgiving break, we will be making and selling holiday items to benefit Angel Watch in La Plata, in honor of the children at that organization for Christmas.


We do not have a final dollar amount for one of the chairs yet, but so far this year, we’ve raised $1,300 for local people and charities. I have never been more proud of my students. They each have an understanding of the deeper purpose of each project. It’s not just an art project; it’s a project that can and will change lives.


Each of my students is unique, special and important in my classroom. However, they also have learned that without people, time and money, our mission wouldn’t be possible. Our community is the key element, not only to the success of this art program but to the success of the school. The support, love and generosity have been heartwarming and humbling to see.


So we have great thanks to our local businesses, families and community. Without you, we’d have no school and with no school there would be no Art of Giving. That’s the beauty of what we have here — people need people. All of us play an important role in this life; we all have something unique and special to offer regardless of status, ethnicity or faith.


So as you read this letter, it is my wish that maybe you will be inspired to start your own Art of Giving program. Feel free to contact us if you have a charity that our Art of Giving can help you with. Or maybe you have items that you’d like to donate that can be repurposed or sent off to do great things.


There are many organizations, local, national and worldwide that could use a little Art of Giving. What better way to get our youth involved than through the beauty of their art. Together we can be the change Jesus wants to see in the world.


Thank you to everyone who has helped us at Mother Catherine Academy and thank God for the blessings he has bestowed upon our school, our students, their families, the faculty and our community. What an honor it has been to be part of this incredible journey of faith.