How ‘Hang on to it for me,’ turned into treasure

  • After picking up her artwork from second grade at Briceville Public Library last week, Katie Leinart Walker looks through the other pieces on display at the library. Briceville Librarian Daphne Windham said the art work will be left out until school starts because the library will then put out “homework tables.” The art will still be at the library and will still be available to be picked up, however. - Ken Leinart

  • Briceville librarian Daphne Windham looks through some of the art on display at the library. Former students of Louise Childress can retrieve their artwork Childress kept for them. - Ken Leinart

They were stored in her attic.

Lord knows how many pieces of art there actually are in the attic of Louise Childress.



And each work of art represents more than color on paper, or ink on cardboard, or pieces of wood magically held together with glue that has lasted 30-plus years.

They represent a sort of journey; a blossoming of a child’s belief in themselves.

“I don’t even remember second grade,” Katie (Leinart) Walker said with a laugh last week when she dropped by Briceville Library to pick up a piece she made in Louise Childress’s class when she a student at Briceville.

“But I remember Mrs. Childress,” she said. “She was just a wonderful teacher.”

Every single piece of art sitting in Briceville Library — every single piece of art Louise Childress promised to safeguard for her students — has a story behind it. There is a personality behind the work, there is a story, a life that grew with self-esteem and assurance.

“Briceville went through eighth grade back then,” Walker said. “And when we went to high school there would be these other kids who would sorta make fun of us, maybe look down on us, because we were from Briceville.

“And I was, ‘You don’t get it, do you?’”

Childress was one of the reasons that those students from Briceville carried themselves differently, why they had a quiet sense of “being.”

Daphne Windham, the librarian at Briceville Library, was also a student at Briceville Elementary School and was taught by Louise Childress.

“When you’re from Briceville you know everybody and everybody knows you,” she said. “It’s a close community — a very supportive community — and Mrs. Childress fit right in. She loved her students and they loved her right back.”

Windham is amazed at the amount of art work Childress kept. At the end of semester or school year she would ask a student if they were going to take their art work home. “You hang on to it for me,” she would be told.

“And she did just that, didn’t she?” Windham said. “And newspaper clippings whenever the students featured. She had all of this.

“And some of these pieces of art work have envelopes taped to the back that have the ribbons if that piece of work won something in an art show, or 4-H, or whatever,” Windham said. “She saved all of that.”

And now those students who asked their art teacher to hang on to their work can come and get them back.

The pieces are laid out neatly in available space at Briceville Library. Many have names of the artist, some do not.

“The first week we had them displayed it was slow,” Windham said. “But then we started posting the names on Facebook and that really got some attention and people started coming by.”

After picking up their treasure the former art students are asked to have a picture taken so Windham can show Mrs. Childress.

“We’ll keep the pieces out until school starts,” Windham said. “When school starts we bring out our homework tables. The art will still be here, and there won’t be as many displayed, but people can still come by and get their pieces.”

For folks like Katie Walker it’s a trip down memory lane. She and Windham swapped stories about students who they both knew during their school years and look up some of their art work — just curiousity playing out.

“It’s wonderful they did this,” Walker said. “She (Mrs. Childress) was just a wonderful teacher. I can remember her bouncy red curls, and I remember the techniques she taught us. We didn’t have a lot of material to work with, it seems. But we had what we needed.”