Kindergarten, first and third grade students of Pine Island Elementary School are contributing their artwork of coral reefs, fish and the Matlacha Bridge for the second fund-raiser the Matlacha Bridge Reef Project is holding this Friday in Bokeelia.
Pine Island Elementary School art teacher Gloria Van Duzer said they are thankful to be afforded the opportunity to help with the important project of the Matlacha Bridge Reef Project organization because it is something that the students have a connection with.
"The children's work is the real highlight of the event, this is such an artistic community, I love that the kids are involved," said Tina Bush of Island Floors Inc. & Interiors and organizer of the event.
Riley Byrd, 6, concentrates as he draws his coral reef masterpiece.
The art sale, which will include artwork from both students and local artists, will be held Friday, Oct. 5, from 5-8 p.m., at Knight's Landing, 16499 Porto Bello St., in Bokeelia. There will also be live music, raffles and the Mullet Wagon at the event, which is free to attend.
Bush said the artwork, which will either be matted or framed, will have a set price during the event.
As of Thursday afternoon, she had more than 24 pieces of artwork from local artists for the event.
"Just come and enjoy the art, the community and the excitement of the whole project," Bush said.
In addition to the art, the fund-raiser will also include a 2012 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 raffle.
Bush said only a limited number of raffle tickets are being sold the day of the event for the Harley Davidson. One raffle ticket is $25 or five tickets for $100.
"Again, only a limited number of tickets are being sold, so be sure and come to the event on Friday at Knight's Landing to get your chance to win the brand new Harley Davidson," she said.
The date and time of when the Harley winner will be announced at the event on Friday.
Van Duzer had discussions with her students about coral reefs and the Matlacha Bridge before any artwork was created.
"We talked about what happens to a building or large object that is no longer needed or upgraded," Van Duzer said. "Students understood that sometimes these things go to landfills and are considered waste. But when we talked about making the Matlacha Bridge into a coral reef, students were excited to think a structure, which was part of their everyday life, would live on and become a productive part of our eco system."
The neat part about the project, she said, were the stories shared by her students about their memories of the Matlacha Bridge.
"Many students reminisced about times when they had a chance to fish from the old bridge," Van Duzer said. "It sounded like most island students had a story about the bridge."
The kindergarten and first grade students created masterpieces of coral reefs and fish over a portion of a few weeks in art class for the event this Friday.
Diego Perez, 6, spent time working on his coral reef picture Thursday afternoon by including an assortment of fish in the water. He said he learned that there is beautiful sand and different fish around a coral reef.
His classmate Brianna Whitney, 6, was also including some finishing touches on her artwork of coral reefs.
"Coral reefs are really pretty and they grow at the bottom of the sea," she said of what she learned. "They need a solid object to grow."
The 3rd grade students, who created pictures of the Matlacha Bridge, went back in time to remember some of their encounters with the bridge.
Baron Pierson, 9, reminisced about his first time fishing on the Matlacha Bridge, which happened after baseball practice one night, when he was about 7 years old.
"I had a late baseball practice and we went fishing instead of watching a movie," he said, adding that he caught a big catfish that night.
Aubrey Bollinger's memories of the Matlacha Bridge were of the bats that used to live under the bridge. The 8-year-old said she also remembers going under the bridge in a boat.
When asked what the students drew for their Matlacha Bridge project, they all became excited about what they incorporated in their drawing.
Karina Bernal, 10, said she was most excited about Van Duzer teaching her how to draw a bridge for the project. With her new skill she drew a bridge with a car driving across.
Heidi Hanson, 9, said she drew a picture of the bridge being taken apart and made into a coral reef. She said she incorporated an octopus, crab and jellyfish into her drawing with watercolors.
"That's where they will make their home," Heidi said of the creatures at the coral reef.
Jose Beltran, 8, also drew a picture of the bridge falling down and a coral reef in the water, as well as people fishing and a car driving across the bridge.
Daisy Ajin, 8, said she drew a broken piece of the bridge and a coral reef, which she said could die if you touch them.
Gracie Anderson, 9, first spent time perfecting her clouds when she began her drawing of the Matlacha Bridge. A sunset was also added to her artwork as the background.
"I drew a car and it was a blue Honda driving over the bridge," Gracie said, along with a shark, fishing pole and a fish with bubbles.
The project also made her think of her favorite memory, which was fishing on the bridge at 2 months old, as well as fishing with her grandpa who is a commercial fisherman.
When Dani Gurganus, 8, began drawing her picture, she decided to draw the bridge going up in the air, so a boat could pass through. The young artist used pastels to also draw a coral reef underwater and someone fishing in the sunset.
The project was perfect for Santos Tecum, 9, because he wants to grow up and be an artist. His masterpiece included a boat, a bird, an octopus in the water and a car driving over the bridge.
The idea of turning the old Matlacha Bridge into an artificial reef came to fruition the first week of July and soon turned into a non-profit organization - the Matlacha Bridge Reef Project - after Rod Mazzoli of Island Floors Inc. & Interiors determined he wanted to preserve a piece of the island's history.
The money raised during the art sale will go towards moving a portion of the old Matlacha Bridge to its artificial reef location on the southern most tip of the Novac Reef.