Art as a time capsule in a fourth grade class at Sopris Elementary  

Bristlecone Arts founder Lindsay Latva interacts with fourth graders at Sopris Elementary School during their art class.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Art is in the eye of the beholder, but for one fourth grade class their favorite interests were in the art behind their portrait. 

The project was to show “what is in our hearts” or their interests, explained one student, Areli Arias. 

This month, Bristlecone Art Collaborative is featuring an entire fourth grade art class from Sopris Elementary School for their creativity and originality.

Their teacher, Leah Berns came up with the idea as a way for the young artists to have something to remember themselves by. 

“I like to think of it as a time capsule of who they are at this age, which maybe isn’t important to them now, but as they get older, I hope they hold on to projects like this.” Berns said. “Or hopefully their parents do.”

After learning new and fun concepts like abstract art or surrealism, the class was given the assignment of using art to show what is inside of them, their interest, the things they like most or the kind of art they like to do most. 

The assignment was to trace a picture of themselves that their teacher took onto a transparent sheet of plastic. Then, they would draw, glue, paint and conceptualize whatever they wanted on a paper that would go behind the portrait so they could physically represent what makes them happy and inspires them at this current moment in their lives. 

A group of Sopris Elementary School fourth graders show off their artwork while in class at school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The students took on the project and soared with creativity, independence and, surprisingly, a lot of support and understanding for each other’s works. 

When any of the students would get even remotely bashful presenting their work, their peers would chime in to help them find the words to express their thoughts. 

Liam Roper was the first to eagerly raise his hand to show his portrait with a drawing of mountain biking behind him. 

“It’s basically taking your portrait and showing inside yourself and what you like to do,” he said, emphasizing that mountain biking is most definitely his passion. 

Allison Cazares drew kitties while River Ellis drew cat whiskers on her own face for an additional hint of creative flare. 

Instead of drawing her interests, Arias glued pictures of koalas and other fuzzy animals, nature and flowers she found pretty. 

“I like looking at flowers but I like winter better,” she said, explaining why she isn’t a fan of gardening.

David O’Leary had a broken arm from falling off a slide when he took his picture for the portrait, but that didn’t stop him from drawing the mountains to represent his favorite place he likes to play. 

Some of the students were excited to experiment with abstract art to add a splash of different colors to spotlight their portraits, like Will Tagler and Jack Ring. 

Sopris Elementary School fourth-grader Allison Cazares shows off her art to Bristlecone Arts founder Lindsay Latva during art class at the school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“Their first project was abstract art,” Berns said. “They thought that was cool because they could do whatever they wanted: splatter and scrape. They can express themselves however they want.”

She added that she enjoys it because it teaches them that art doesn’t have to look real to be good, and it opens their ability to be more creative. 

One unique perspective was Maddox Siomiak who drew a race car, but clarified that he didn’t want to be a racecar driver when he grew up, he just likes cars a lot. 

Instead, he aspires to be a fighter pilot. 

Some young ones just know what they want in life, even at a fourth grade level. 

Art is one of the best ways for children to have the ability to express and understand themselves with a creative lens, and this project gave them a literal opportunity to make their own creative lens. 

Even though the art was unique for each student, it didn’t stop them from collaborating and talking to each other about their interests. Most students articulated the art behind their peers’ profile and supported each other when they were presenting. 

Bristlecone Art Collaboration works to lift teachers and their students’ art and spotlight all of their hard work. 

Bristlecone Arts founder Lindsay Latva interacts with fourth graders at Sopris Elementary School during their art class.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Lindsay Latva, the founder and director of Bristlecone, focuses her work on those spotlights with the hopes of students continuing their expression, and encouraging young artists to continue artwork in middle school, high school and even as an adult, she said.

“This is our first student showcase,” Latva said.  “We’re really excited to be able to start having students’ artwork be out in the community more, whether it’s through an art show or through an online lens. 

“But one of our main goals is just to get student artwork into the community so that we can really honor those young artists and continue to build on this.”

Bristlecone is a non-profit based on volunteer work. The organization would like to give back to their artists, honor and showcase their teachers and cover the whole region from Rifle to Basalt by the end of April, Latva said. 

If you would like to sponsor or donate, please email Latva at and to find out more information about Bristlecone, visit its website at

If you know an art student you think should be showcased or want to sponsor a student or chill, contact Latva and to find out more information about Bristlecone, to find out more about Bristlecone visit its website at

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at or 970-384-9131.

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