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Zoe’s Kitchen exhibits art by West Madison students

Walls at Zoe’s Kitchen, a new Huntsville restaurant, will be filled with artwork by students from West Madison Elementary School.

West Madison fifth-grader Dylan Coleman painted a snowman for Zoe's Kitchen.

“Zoe’s Kitchen does a cool community outreach thing,” West Madison enrichment specialist Wendy Tibbs said. “They provide all the art materials to local schools and let the kids create artwork to display on their walls in the restaurant.”

Zoe’s Kitchen is located in the Target shopping center adjacent to Cummings Research Park.

Kevin Hassler is general manager of North Alabama’s first Zoe’s Kitchen on Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville, and his mother Jenny Hassler works as secretary at West Madison. “Kevin asked me back in the summer if our school would be interested in this program,” Jenny said. “I knew right away that our Principal Dr. Daphne Jah would love it, too.”

“The artwork will be on display when the store opens on Nov. 29,” Jenny Hassler said. “A few weeks later, a promotional night will highlight the art work.”

Art teacher Lora Snyder is working at Heritage Elementary School this semester, so second-grade teacher Holly McKnight volunteered to organize the event. “We met with interested fifth- and sixth-graders initially, explained the premise and had them start designing sketches,” Tibbs said.

Zoe’s Kitchen supplied water-based tubes of paint, canvases and paint brushes. Using the theme “Winter,” the students had no other constraints for creativity on canvas. They painted after school in the cafeteria and recruited children in extended-day care to join them.

“What started as a small, controlled ‘class’ soon became an open studio of free expression with about 30 students making beautiful art,” Tibbs said. Students painted wintry landscapes, snowmen, Christmas trees and reindeer. “Our kids came through.”

Zoe’s sells the artwork for $20 each and uses the proceeds to buy materials for the next school’s paintings.

“Thanks to Wendy Tibbs for taking on this project,” Hassler said. “Also, Holly McKnight, a brand new teacher, started on Nov. 5 and still volunteered. I don’t think we could have done it without her.” McKnight is an alumna of West Madison.

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