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$10,000 gift boosts art education at Triangle Elementary

MOUNT DORA – The new arts program at Triangle Elementary School is getting a big financial boost thanks to the generosity of local business owners.Christine Palmer


Donna Brown and Ken Mazik, owners of Main Street Leasing, recently donated $10,000 to help the school purchase supplies and equipment to jump start the program.


“We were shocked to learn there had not been an arts program at the school,’’ said Brown, whose company created the Modernism Museum in Mount Dora. “This was right up our alley. We are very much into art.”


As part of her effort to make Lake County Schools a “destination district,” Superintendent Diane Kornegay is bringing art programs back to all Lake elementary schools with the start of the 2018-19 school year. Excited by the idea, Triangle Principal Marlene Straughan hired art teacher Christine Palmer (pictured at right) to launch the school’s program.


Shortly afterward, Mazik and Brown, who is part of the Heroes Foundation that recently presented Triangle with a grant to reward students who performed well on the Florida Standards Assessment, took a tour of the school, learned about the plans for the new arts program and wanted to know how they could help.


“We told them we were starting from ground zero,” Straughan said. “They asked us to make a wish list of what we’d need.”


Palmer and Straughan put $10,000 worth of items on their wish list, including a kiln for firing pottery, thinking Brown might purchase a few and donate them to the school.


“[Brown] looked at the list and said she wanted to invest in the children,’’ Straughan said. “The next thing I knew, she took out a check and handed it to me. It was for the full $10,000. Our art program is set for years and years to come thanks to this gift.”


Palmer said she is thrilled and can hardly wait to start teaching in August. She said art education gives students “voice equity” as some who struggle in other subject areas sometimes thrive in art and find the confidence they need to make improvements elsewhere. Additionally, she said, art naturally incorporates elements of science, math and critical thinking – skills students can strengthen in art class to benefit them in other classes.


“Art also supports good citizenship,’’ Palmer said. “There is a cultural impact. Students learn to take a breath and critically think before making a judgment. That’s important.”


Straughan agreed. “This is going to change the culture of our school,’’ she said. “This is Mount Dora, the center for arts, the artistic hub of Lake County. For a school in the city of Mont Dora not to be connected to the arts was a tragedy.


This is something we have lacked for many years and now there is a big sense of excitement. We are forever grateful.”