Art initiative brings sunshine to Steamboat Springs |

Art initiative brings sunshine to Steamboat Springs

Three local art teachers have launched “The Sunshine Project,” a fun art-making exercise for the Steamboat Springs community to share a little sunshine with each other.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Three art teachers from Strawberry Park Elementary, Soda Creek Elementary and Steamboat Springs Middle schools are getting even more creative than usual while practicing distance learning. They have created a collaborative art project that encourages not only their students, but the community as a whole, to create artwork inspired by and evoking sunshine.

The initiative, dubbed “The Sunshine Project” launched April 13, and will run through May 1. Participants are encouraged to create artwork outside, inspired by sunshine, using whatever materials they have on hand from pens and pencils to sticks and twigs.

The idea originally came from an Instagram post that Susanmarie Oddo, art teacher at Steamboat Middle School, saw on her sister-in-law’s account. The photo depicted a rainbow created by Oddo’s niece, which was hanging in the window of their family home. This rainbow display and others could be seen in homes throughout their small New York town, an idea started by a mother who created a social distancing scavenger hunt.

The photo that inspired Susanmarie Oddo, the art teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, to start The Sunshine Project in Routt County.
Courtesy photo

“When I saw the photo, I knew there was no better way to help our community right now than to create an art project that invokes joy and happiness,” Oddo said.

Oddo acknowledged that, as a teacher, the number one thing she hears from her students right now is that they are feeling overwhelmed and powerless.

“These are the times when adults are called on to model ways for children to restore their sense of purpose,” she said. “Truly, when you have a sense of purpose, and you can contribute to the wellness of our world, it’s pretty empowering and healing. Art is something personalized that students can contribute.”

Oddo collaborated with Strawberry Park art teacher Erin Kreis and Soda Creek art teacher Christie Stepan to bring the idea to life.

“Distance learning presented new challenges, but with that, came new opportunities to reach out to each other as educators, creating deeper connections,” Oddo said.

How to participate
  • Create some sunshine using whatever you have on hand: pencils, markers, twigs, etc.
  • Post in one of your windows where people can see it.
  • Upload your work at
  • Share it on social media with #steamboatprojectsunshine.

The students are able to invite friends or family from other schools and communities to participate as well. Once the artwork has been created, participants can upload it into an online portal to share with other students, and they are encouraged to hang it somewhere in their home — a window, door, garage or front lawn — where neighbors can enjoy their version of sunshine.

“The idea is to fill our community with sunshine,” the teachers told their students.

“Art connects people,” Stepan said. “And right now, we’re craving both connection and sunshine. We all love to be outdoors, so we’re encouraging kids to do that while collaborating with their families and connecting with each other through art during this time of physical distance.”

The teachers want students to take weekends and the upcoming spring break week off, if they choose to.

“We still want them to be kids and get a little vacation in whatever way they can right now,” Oddo said. “It’s important for everyone to recharge.”

In the several days since Project Sunshine has launched, students have created sunshine using markers, pens, pencils and paper. An online gallery shows their work hanging in the windows of their homes for passersby to enjoy, just as Oddo had envisioned.

“I can’t think of a better way to help our community than to create something that invokes joy and happiness,” she said.

Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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