Carla Stolte (BA’95; B. Ed.’97)
Connection Magazine - Summer 2015
Author and Theologian Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Driven to do just that, Carla Stolte was named one of Avenue Magazine’s 2014 Top 40 Under 40.
Stolte is the art specialist at Mount Royal School. She recently oversaw a project for her students that got them thinking about their school’s theme, Whoever You Are.
The premise behind this initiative, The Penny Project, was simple but in a profound way: students made use of the no-longer-circulating copper coins to create sculptures of what represents community to them.
“The process began with a meeting,” Stolte recollects, between herself and some others who were ready to assist and support her throughout. “I remember the meeting like it was yesterday because of the conflicted emotions I was feeling about this project.” Working with a new art medium and many young artists had Stolte feeling in a little over her head.
Fifteen unique sculptures were the outcome of The Penny Project. Students worked as individuals, pairs and groups to portray through pennies what community means for them.
The pennies were collected through early childhood programs of the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation. Students came to see the coins not as a form of currency but rather worth much more as these were their means of conveying their messages of inclusion and community.
Beaming with confidence and emanating a sense of accomplishment, the student artists partook in a VIP gala where their pieces were auctioned off. The sculptures of The Penny Project raised $13,000 which was donated towards education for children of low-income families.
Describing the finished products Stolte proudly says, “these sculptures all represent a piece of each of these students — who they are, what they believe is important and a piece of their heart for the world to see.”
With a great passion for community, the results of Stolte’s hard work and determination are also evident within and throughout her neighborhood. She is the president of her community league and dedicates much of her time towards neighbourhood-building initiatives. The effort she exerts and the many volunteer hours she has invested into this position perfectly exemplify her desire for a tighter-knit city. The Penny Project was a harmonious collaboration where Stolte’s passion for arts and education met her passion for community and her neighbourhood.
Despite initial frustration and doubt as to the success of this project, Stolte affirms, “The Penny Project has been, in the end, one of the highlights of my career. It isn’t every day that an elementary art teacher has the opportunity to allow her students to shine in such an amazing and powerful way.”
By recognizing what makes her come alive, Stolte continues to do immeasurable good for her students, her neighbourhood and wider community.