Community Creates! auction to benefit arts-based charter school in Winston-Salem

by Keith Barber


A painting by Virginia Cassey will be auctioned off during the 3rd annual Community Creates fundraiser at the Arts-Based Elementary School in Winston-Salem on Sept. 25. (photo by Cheryl Shirillo)


‘Cheryl Schirillo believes in the mission of the Arts-Based Elementary School, or ABES in Winston-Salem. Her son, Johnathan, attended ABES for three years and it was “a magical place,” she said.


“One of the examples I like to give is when the kids were studying the properties of light in science class, they did the traditional studying, but then they had to choreograph a performance piece that demonstrated the properties of light,” Schirillo said. “They created costumes that were black on one side and reflective on the other. I learned more about how light works in that performance than I ever learned in school.”

Schirillo, the founder of, is one of a number of community leaders pairing up with local artists to create original works that will be auctioned off during the third annual Community Creates! fundraiser at the Arts-Based Elementary School on Sept. 25 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Schirillo worked with local artist Virginia Cassey to create a unique work for the auction.

“It was a lot of fun, it was very exciting,” said Schirillo. “It was inspired by my website, We have a lot of spiral imagery on the homepage, so Virginia took the idea of the spirals and the idea of the organic nature of how a community creates together.”

Cassey did most of the work on the painting and Schirillo helped put on the finishing touches. The mission of the annual fundraiser is to underwrite artists in residence who come into the school and work with students. Artists give students the chance to enjoy experiential learning versus didactic, traditional learning.

Since ABES is a charter school, it only receives limited funding from the state and does not receive proceeds from the NC Education Lottery, said Claire O’Boyle, a staff member at ABES. Therefore, the annual fundraiser helps offset the costs of bringing in guest artists to work with the students.

There are three parts to the evening. In Part 1, more than 20 original artworks created by community leaders and local artists will be auctioned. The second part of the evening is known as “a hundred for a hundred,” in which local artists are given 8×10 canvasses that they return to the school. They are all hung anonymously and sell for $100 apiece. Finally, Community Creates offers a high-end raffle where local artists offer pieces of art.

Twenty-five items ranging in value from $50 to $500 have been donated for the raffle. Tickets can be purchased for $5 each or five for $20.

“It’s a real fun evening; we’ve had a blast the past two years,” O’Boyle said.

To fully appreciate the good work being done at ABES, members of the community should take a tour of the school, O’Boyle said.

“We have the same curriculum as other schools but students are all taught dance, theatre, music, and visual arts,” Boyle explained. “We use the arts as part of our everyday curriculum.”

A good example is third graders that learn about different types of soil act like worms in their dance class so they learn it’s much harder to move through clay than through sand.

“They move what they’re learning to experience what sand is like,” said O’Boyle. “One of our lessons about the caves of Lascaux, students will find themselves under their tables searching for drawings left behind by previous classmates. Science is not by the book at ABES.”

And it is this unique learning experience that parents, teachers and community leaders wish to preserve by raising enough money to keep resident artists coming into the school. With limited funding from the state, this is the school’s way of being self-sufficient and holding true to its mission, O’Boyle said.

wanna go?

Community Creates! Arts Based Elementary School, 1380 North Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Winston-Salem. Saturday, Sept. 25; 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. For further info, e-mail: