Families, friends, students, teachers and volunteers all gathered together March 28 at Kutztown High School as students from Kutztown Middle School and KHS celebrated their uniquely designed fashion creations, at 'Project Innovate Fashion Show--Songs of the Century'.

Everyone came together in KHS auditorium to watch the fashion show competition that students have been working on for months. Thirteen design teams from KMS and KHS presented their wearable creations on stage, made entirely from trash. Individual designers and design teams modeled at least one outfit, inspired by a song or musical artist while competing for the top design. This event was sponsored by Festival of the Arts-FOA, which has run in our community for the past seven years and will not run this year due to this event.

Every Thursday from January to March, student designers and teams gathered in the middle school art room with Art Teacher, Kris Tuerk and, Kristina Kopfer, Tuerk's student teacher from Kutztown University Art Education and Crafts Department. Carrie Page, also from Kutztown University, joined the group to assist, as well as Lisa Scheffler.

KHS students, Tyler Akers, 15, Krista Kunkle, 16, and Amelia Scheffler, 15, participated in Pennsylvania Art Education Association's Project Innovate Fashion Show in Bethlehem this past October and confronted Tuerk about having a show at Kutztown.

Supporting their idea, Tuerk opened her room each week, giving students a safe space to explore art in a new way and interact with their peers, middle and high school students together. This design challenge allowed for students to think about the products that people use every day that get thrown out. Thinking in innovative ways, students were able to re-purpose trash to create new, beautiful designs, much like artist, Nancy Judd who had a show at The Reading Public Museum just this past winter.

'It's a fabulous experience because it gets you to experience creating art with new materials,' Jackie Battin, 14, said.

Starting out, students came up with ideas for their design inspired by the theme: 'Songs of the Century' and collected supplies they needed to execute their thoughts. Then, each week, students worked enthusiastically and persistently with their materials in the art room to create their distinctive outfits, inspired by different musical artists and songs. This group of students have been inspired by Brandywine Heights High School's Fashion Show for years, and were so excited to have their own.

For the final competition at KHS, the high school art students created massive newspaper collaged banners that hung from the rafters while Kutztown University's National Art Education Association students came down to help decorate the stage with lights and garland made out of plastic shopping bags and sculptures out of duck tape and water bottles.

Tyler, Krista and Amelia, all from the high school Student Council, asked to engage a mentorship program between the middle school student council and the high school. They came up to the middle school to speak with student council members during their scheduled meeting times asking for volunteers to work the bake sale and admissions. Service Learning was also planned for the support of Friend, Inc. For each non-perishable food item brought in for Friend, a dollar came off their cost of the ticket. All proceeds from this event went to KHS Student Council with hopes to send students to a Summer Leadership Program.

Three judges worked together to evaluate each design, concentrating on wearability, craftsmanship, visual impact and stage presentation. Third place was awarded to Hannah Sanders, 14, for her Burning Up Dress. Second place was awarded to Akers, Scheffler, Kunkle and Smith, as well, for their 'Mocking Jay Dress,' modeled by Smith. Kennedi Cavalier, 13, Alexa Hamm, 13, and Kaylee Hoffman, 13 created the winning dress, 'Coffee Crazy', inspired by Hunter Hayes and his love coffee and Converse sneakers. The girls designed a one-of-a-kind dress made from K-cups, coffee filters, Starbucks sleeves, shoelaces, Converse sneakers, and yarn.

'There were truly wearable artworks at this show!' said Judge Linnia Tompkins, 22. 'The designers had amazing concepts that they really thought about when creating their designs. It was a close judgment call when choosing the winners.'

Project Innovate allowed students to explore art beyond the classroom and create relationships with students older and younger than themselves.

'It's a great and creative new way to make fashion,' said Hannah Sanders, 14. 'I love being a part of this after-school and hope to do it again next year!'

Tyler Akers, 15, agrees, saying, 'Project Innovate isn't just about making fashion; it's about making art. It allowed middle school and high school student council to bond and make ties that will benefit the school for years to come.'

Jim Brown, KMS principal said, 'Tuerk, what an amazing job by all, well done. It makes me proud to work in Kutztown.'

Feeling the students' palpable energy each week was so inspiring. The design thinking skills they have developed and connections they have made with each other was such an amazing experience to witness. Project Innovate is sure to inspire others to become involved and think in new ways. It not only allows students to create wearable art and collaborate with their friends, but to experience the impact and rapport that was built over the past several weeks amongst everyone involved.

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