Lakewood Elementary students create artwork for the Lakewood Home Festival’s live auction

The homes on this year’s Lakewood Home Festival are spectacular as ever.

There’s the original 1930s model home from renowned Dallas architect Clifford Hutsell, a house backed by a private lake on Lake Circle Drive, and a 1920s Mediterranean-style house that overlooks the golf course.

While homeowners are painting bathrooms and planting flowers in preparation, students at Lakewood Elementary are preparing in another way.

For the third year in a row, students in each grade level are creating artwork for a live auction at the pre-tour party.

Lakewood Elementary parent Bliss Freeman came up with the idea.

“I was talking to some friends who have kids at St. Thomas Aquinas, and the private schools have been doing auctions like this for a while,” Freeman says. “I said, ‘I think we could be missing out on some free money here.’”

The first year, the kids’ artwork raised $8,000. Last year, their pieces sold for between $600 and $5,200 each, for a total of $16,000.

The school spends less than $200 on supplies for each piece.

Freeman volunteers to lead the projects in art teacher Dana Lawson’s classroom each year. She asks the children to create a small work that she compiles into each grade’s greater piece.

This year, parents got to pick their projects.

Fourth-graders are creating a big mosaic mirror. During a lesson in October, Freeman explained the project to students.

They each were given a square of cork and a palette of paint. She showed them some examples of abstract art — concentric shapes, repeating patterns — and asked them to come up with their own idea to paint on the cork.

“It’s important that we do our best work,” she told the students. “The better the artwork, the more money we get for our school.”

She told them how much their project had earned last year — more than $5,000.

“Do we get to keep the money?” one child asked.

Well, sort of.

Since the Lakewood Elementary art auction’s inception, the school has paid for smart boards, books and a climbing wall in the gym, among other extras.

“All this money comes directly back to you and your school,” Freeman tells them.

In a financial environment where art programs constantly are at risk of being cut, the auction also serves as a spotlight on the importance of art in education, says Lawson, the school’s only art teacher.

Most students at Lakewood, which is considered one of the best elementary schools in Dallas ISD, go to art class once a week for less than an hour.

“It’s nice to let them get away from the math and writing for a while and let them do something creative,” she says.

When the fourth-graders start their art projects, the room turns eerily quiet. No one talks — they are thinking, concentrating, painting.

The three moms volunteering give each other strange looks that verge on worry. “It’s so quiet,” one of them mouths to another.

But after a few minutes, they start to chatter.

“Can I borrow some of your blue?” … “I’m mixing my colors.” … “Mine has polka dots.”

Altogether, it takes about 4,500 volunteers to pull off the art projects, pre-party and home tour. There are about 710 students at Lakewood, so that means if two parents volunteer for each child, they still get thousands of volunteers from the community.

“Lakewood is very fortunate to have a lot of parent and community involvement,” parent Brook Botsch says.

Once the artwork from all six grades, kindergarten through fifth, is finished, Freeman has a little more than a week to compile them.

The projects are put on display in the auditorium for about a week, starting Oct. 31, so that students can see what they’ve made.

They go up for auction during the “Viva Las Lakewood” party Nov. 12, and bidding is not for the faint of heart.

“It gets pretty brutal during the live aution, which is exciting to see,” Freeman says.

The Lakewood Home Festival is Nov. 12-14. Tickets are $12, and they’re available at 20 Tom Thumb locations in Dallas or online at

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