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The colorful designs of these 10 Manhattan Beach elementary school children were chosen to be reproduced into a reusable shopping bag for Gelson's. The 4th graders four of the city's five schools were each given a bag and celebrated at the store on Sepulveda Blvd. June 14, 2019. Winners included: (from left, back row) Ty Ahrens, Jack Ingram, Jesse Merleoverholt, Jake Kinniger, Vivian Bullock; (from left, front row) Lily Jones, Lylah Ortman and Eliana Rigaud. Other winners included: Riya Dhillon and Lucia Perella (not pictured.) Also pictured is Manhattan Beach Gelson's Store Director Dennis Sullivan (far left) and Manhattan Beach Unified School District's elementary level art teacher Bill Ahrens (far right.) (Photo by Kirsten Farmer) 

If you’re shopping at Gelson’s on Sepulveda in Manhattan Beach, you’ll have the opportunity to sport the artwork of local youth and support the school district.

The vibrant creations of 10 fourth graders—each a colorful, abstract knot design—have been printed onto 5,000 reusable shopping bags available for purchase at Gelson’s.

Each bag will cost $2.99 and a portion of the proceeds are set to be donated to the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, according to Store Manager Dennis Sullivan.

“We’re trying to reach out, be a good neighbor and a part of the Manhattan Beach community,” Sullivan explained of the partnership between the retailer and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District.

The collaboration was first suggested by former Pennekamp Elementary teacher Bill Ahrens.

“I knew that our art program needed some exposure and Gelson’s needed some foot traffic,” he explained.

Ahrens, who worked for the district as an arts teacher 20 years ago, was brought on once again this school year as the only elementary level visual arts instructor.

He currently circulates to each of the district’s five elementary campuses—one for each day of the week—teaching fine art to fourth and fifth grade students.

The reintroduction of his position was possible due to funds raised at last year’s MBEF Wine Auction and a sign that the previously ailing elementary arts program is coming back to life, according to Ahrens.

“We have decided in the district that the arts are important, especially to this community, so it’s important to the local families to have an early elementary program,” he explained.

His instruction, Ahrens added, takes some of the pressure off arts education at the middle school level.

“We are teaching the fundamentals of the art design element,” he said.

For this particular contest, Ahrens had the students first learn about the color wheel and then use lines to create a gradient, saturated “color knot.”

He then had the students at each school choose their favorite designs; the top 10 selected by peers were then reproduced into the bags.

The children celebrated at Gelson’s June 13, where they were each presented with a bag and asked to sign copies that will put on display in the store.

“It feels good because everyone is buying what you made and you feel successful,” said 10-year-old Grandview Elementary fourth grader Lylah Ortman.

“It makes me feel special because it means people actually like my artwork,” added Grandview classmate Vivian Bullock, also 10.

Ahrens said teaching the youngsters the value of their artwork is what it’s all about.

“That’s what this project does,” he explained. “And the excitement around these is thrilling because parents can’t wait to have these bags.”

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