June 2, 2023

Friess Shares Art of Giving

Art of Giving

“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,” writes Theresa Friess introducing the Art of Giving program she created at Mother Catherine Academy in Helen, MD.

The notion of using art to instill in students the joy of giving and appreciation of the virtue of charity sprung nearly full-blown to Ms. Friess shortly after accepting the job as substitute art teacher at Mother Catherine Spalding School, now Mother Catherine Academy.

She took the job during March and to celebrate Maryland Day, March 25, students painted the Maryland flag on oyster shells.

“The Maryland flag is a hard flag to paint,” Ms. Friess wrote in a letter published last year in the St. Mary’s County Enterprise, “not to mention they did it on such a small scale. … It hit me … 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. … Not only did they say yes, but they couldn’t wait to hear what our next charity would be.”

The shells raised $300. “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.”

The effort has grown, and the fourth- through eighth-grade student artists at Mother Catherine Academy have performed other similar art gifts of charity which has included making scarecrows to show appreciation for the American Farmer and currently the fourth- and fifth-graders are involved with local police officers in a series of events and art designed to honor their service to the community.

Ms. Friess tells these stories with a large photo album on her lap full of smiling children and some proud adults for these and other projects. She is sitting across from a mural her student painted at Flat Iron Farm. There is a small pen of gobbling turkeys next to her. She has already dodged a small, overly attentive goat to reach the seat that gives a good view of the mural her students, with the assistance of local artist Mary Lou Troutman, created for Bubby Knott, owner of Flat Iron Farm. The farm hosts an annual Christmas show of lights, a petting zoo, shops, and more, open to the public.

The mural was to thank Mr. Knott for all he does in him for his work in the community, Ms. Friess said.

She has also brought students in to partner with homeless visitors to Holy Angels Church. The parish is a member of the WARM program where during the winter months St. Mary’s County churches rotate a week of hosting homeless members of the community.

Ms. Friess volunteers for WARM, and one year brought paint and barn wood and oyster shells in and by the end of the week had all of the homeless visitors participate in an art project. Two years later, she brought the eighth-graders. “They’re preparing for confirmation,” she said, “and cooked and served the meal that evening. Then they played a pinata game and by then everyone was comfortable and they worked on art projects together.”

Pulling out photos of this she shows the circle of hands she photographed from her first year bringing art to the parish homeless visitors. Their hands rest atop the art they produced, commemorating both the art and the artists that it created from this effort. She dabs at her eyes.

“Mother Theresa is my inspiration and my drive,” she said, still dabbing. “The art of giving is to give and not expect anything in return.”

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