Fifth-grader Gwen Tucker and teacher Traci Mull dole out treats at the RainbowCafé. Photo by Isabel Schultz

Lincolnwood School, 2600 Colfax, was transformed into the Wonderful World of Oz at Family Night last Friday, January 24. The parent-run PTA-sponsored event “Follow Your Yellow Brick Road” included a talent show, an all-school art exhibition, art activity studio and café with complimentary snacks and treats. The event was open to all Lincolnwood families free of charge.

Lincolnwood parents Ann Wilkinson and Melissa Raman Molitor started developing and producing the show more than a year ago.

Ms. Wilkinson has a background in the performing arts. When the two parents began last year to plan the annual talent show, Ms. Wilkinson said, she realized she wanted this year’s talent show to be different. This year, she said, she wanted the kids to understand and appreciate the components of a complete production from start to finish and to experience the camaraderie that comes with being part of an ensemble show.

Ms. Wilkinson said she “finds it limiting to have the kids … put on a talent show when, to me, that’s not true performing arts. That’s open mic night.

[A true performance] has people working on stage and behind, and it has performers. All of the parts are equal and all of those areas require practice.”

Nearly 70 children participated in the talent show, which was broken down by grade level into three separate shows during the evening. Children from all grades demonstrated their talents, which included singing, dancing, unicycling, magic, poetry and instrumental performance.

The event gave children who did not choose to perform the opportunity to catch the “theater bug” as well. They worked behind the scenes as designers, technical crew, ushers and in the concession café.

Ms. Molitor, whose background is in the visual arts, began working on the event last summer.  She enlisted the help of Lincolnwood art teacher Monica Vick to create the Emerald City Art Gallery and its exhibition of artwork by every one of Lincolnwood’s 410 students. 

Ms. Molitor hoped, she said, that “with this event we could highlight all of the arts [and] offer the students an opportunity to find their voice[s] through visual arts, music, dance or performance. We wanted to highlight the many strengths and talents that exist in our community’s young people … and to create some of the wonder and magic that only the arts can offer.”

Art teacher Monica Vick agreed. “I thought family night was an amazing evening where our superstars really got the chance to shine,” she said. “It is wonderful to work at a school that really values and supports the arts and to have such creative and talented students.”

The exhibited artwork contained pieces made in art class that ranged from the cardboard-printing technique of kindergarteners to second-graders’ folk-art birds and to fifth-graders’ “sunset silhouettes.” The school held an art contest in December in which the students all voted on an entry to be used for event flyers and programs. Fifth-grader Linda Li’s entry won.

Lincolnwood’s halls were filled with hundreds of families who braved the cold to come out and celebrate the artistic talents of Lincolnwood’s students.  More than 50 families provided volunteers to help with decorations, publicity, photography, baking, donating food for the Over the Rainbow Café, prepping the artwork for display and working backstage.

The Lincolnwood School Parent Teacher Association provided funding for the event.