Kindness made visible

Shamrock Gardens Elementary art teacher Jamil Steele is always looking for ways to get his students involved creatively. So when he was invited to participate in The Blessing Box campaign, he immediately found ways to get them involved.

"Being able to get students excited about art outside the classroom is what it's all about," he said.

The campaign was started by AboutFace Charlotte, a non-profit organization that strives to put human faces on complex social issues. More than 2,500 Blessing Boxes were distributed throughout the community. Each box contained 100 colored strips of paper. Participants were encouraged to do acts of kindness, write them down on a strip of paper and place it inside the Blessing Box. Once all 100 acts of kindness were complete, the box was returned to AboutFace CLT.

Shamrock Gardens had a collection box and Steele, the school's 2017 Teacher of the Year, encouraged his students to submit acts of kindness. Once the boxes were filled, local artists were chosen to use the strips to create artwork. Steele decided to paint a portrait of his students with the strips strategically placed on a piece of plywood. Over the summer, his students and their families came in to help him with the piece.

"It was so great to have our community come together and work on art," he said. "These students are the essence of kindness. They aren't tainted by bias or unfair expectations. They're all about love."

The painting portrays children from different backgrounds at play. The colorful strips of paper provide a patterned background. "The children's clothing and the strips that adorn the background are bright, vivid and colorful to promote a mood of joy and happiness," said Steele.

Steele's artwork was displayed in Spirit Square through the end of 2017. His students and their families came to see the piece on display. "It was so great for them to come and see me practicing art outside of the classroom," he said. "It helps them see what possibilities are open to them."

Once the exhibit was over, Steele decided to donate his artwork to Levine Children's Hospital where it is currently displayed. The piece was donated in honor of a former student, James Govan, who successfully completed kidney disease treatment at Levine. His mother, Kimberly Buie, is also a teacher at Shamrock Gardens.

"This project was a great way to spread kindness in our community," said Steele. "Our students and their families got to perform acts of kindness, participate in art and see the community appreciate it."