"She wanted an art piece for the school, and she wanted the kids to be part of it," recalled Canning. "We wanted something meaningful for years to come."
"I'm not a ceramicist so I was not going to do tile," she explained, "but I had quilting experience."
She designed a triptych of quilts, each with its own theme to reflect the natural beauty of this area, as well as the school community. Each quilt has a center, created by Canning, surrounded by block prints made by students.
"I'd never done a project this enormous before," said Canning, who teaches art to every grade, K-5. "The biggest I'd done was a queen-sized quilt for my daughter."
In their art classes, the older students each created a design for a block print, following the themes of the three quilts:
* Mount Diablo, a foundation of support, referring to the supportive school community;
* The Danville Oak Tree, symbolizing the branches of learning; and
* A cougar, the school mascot, with the theme of Cougar Spirit positive values.
The students transferred their designs to rubber carving blocks, carved them, and finally printed them onto fabric. Canning quilted the blocks around the center designs she created.
"It became an overwhelming task," she said.
Canning noted that several moms helped out and she became friends with them, especially Kerry Dickinson and Margaret Hart. Dickinson, in turn, raves about Canning, who has been teaching art at Baldwin for seven years, paid by the Cougar Ed Fund.
"I have framed photos in my home of artwork my boys completed while attending Baldwin and taking art classes from Charlotte," said Dickinson. "These quilts are a testament to her creativity, talent and dedication to the Baldwin art program."
The project ended up taking two years, due to the work involved in making the three quilts and also due to events in Canning's personal life.
Principal Claudia Bensley is no longer at the school. But the quilts are ready to be dedicated at the Baldwin Spring Art Show and Concert taking place from 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 30. They will be hung somewhere on campus, perhaps from the ceiling of the library.
Personal invitations went out to the students who participated in the project - they are now in the seventh grade - and Canning said last week she had begun to get responses.
Some of the student blocks depict human handprints and footprints to think about the marks we leave behind as we move forward into the future. Charlotte Canning and her art students left more than footprints at John Baldwin Elementary - they left quilts to be cherished for generations to come.
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