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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton Public Schools created a COVID-19 friendly way to celebrate their students with disabilities through the Uniquely Artistic Virtual Art Show. Each student was told this year's theme of Spring Splash, and then they were able to take their interpretation and showcase it in any form of art they liked. Photo by Paula Tredway / Fulton Sun.

With COVID-19 taking its toll, Fulton Public Schools had to get creative.

The district normally participates in the Special Olympics and its field day, Fun in the Sun, but this year it wasn't able to do so. With that being said, Kate Brown — a special education teacher at Bartley Elementary School — wanted to find another way to celebrate students with disabilities.

Brown, along with some fellow special education teachers, came up with the idea to create a virtual art show. They started off tossing around the idea of having an in-person show, but they were afraid not as many people would view the children's artwork due to COVID. The idea of a virtual show seemed to be the way to go in order to get the views and participation they were hoping for while keeping everyone safe.

Each teacher submitted a theme and title for the show, and then put it to a vote. And that's how the Uniquely Artistic Virtual Art Show came to be. The teachers decided to follow the same criteria that is used for deciding who may partake in the Special Olympics. There were about 56 students from preschool up to seniors in high school who participated in the show.

This year's theme was Spring Splash. Students were able to use any medium they wanted from photography to a coloring page to clay sculptures. Some students chose to paint with flowers, others with water guns. Some made bird houses and others created wind tunnels out of a soup can. High school students painted ceiling tiles from the school, and they will go back up on the ceiling for display.

"It was their opportunity to showcase their abilities," Brown said. "They all had a voice whether they were verbal or non-verbal — they were able to express themselves."

Participants, classmates, teachers and parents have all loved the idea of the virtual art show. The students at Bartley Elementary have shown so much love and excitement for their fellow classmates that some have even gone as far as writing cards to express how happy they are and how much they love the art.

"Everything has been taken away from kids this year. If anything, we have just put more on kids' plates." Brown said. "Our expectations have been different all year long — we still require them to take tests even though everything has changed, and we haven't been able to celebrate our students. And I just wanted them to be celebrated."

Fulton Public Schools are potentially looking to continue the art show on an annual basis, but next time around they're playing with the idea of including awards or certificates for those who participate.

To view the Uniquely Artistic Virtual Art Show, visit Fulton Public Schools' Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FPSHornets. The artwork is also on display at The Callaway Bank's display window at 520 Court St. until June 1.

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