BRADENTON -- Art came alive in downtown Bradenton Saturday.
Thousands filled Old Main Street for ArtSlam 2016 as downtown Bradenton became a studio, where children were drawing, painting, making jewelry and playing music.
Twelve-year-old Isabella Mendoza of Parrish couldn't have looked happier as she sat in front of loom, weaving her long wooden needle in and out of the bright, multicolored yarn being shaped into a scarf.
"It's really therapeutic," Isabella said. "You just get to make things over and over again."
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A former student at Wakeland Elementary School, where her father is the principal, Isabella demonstrated her talents for other children at the school booth.
"When I was younger, I started on my own," Isabella said. "My mom bought me a crochet kit with a loom."
Over the years she made scarfs, hats and even a poncho, she said.
"There's so many things you can make with it," Isabella added.
Nearby, her father proudly watched his daughter and other children making bracelets and helping weave a blanket.
"As a principal, we are about teaching the whole child ... the arts are an important part of being educated," Mario Mendoza said. "As a dad, this is exactly what I would want for my kid -- a well-rounded education."
Teams of students and professional artists engaged with
children and adults to create various forms of art, including painting birdhouses and on canvases, painted leaves for the "Communi-tree" and the always popular sidewalk chalk art.
The Haile Middle School Jazz Band and the Manatee High School drum line drew crowds with their performances.
Midway through the event, organizers were pleased with turnout having already counted about 11,000, according to Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton,
"We stepped up our engagement with the public and private schools, so we are putting an even bigger emphasis on youth, collaboration and creativity," Isham said. "People are really enjoying the emphasis on youth because they are our future."
Realize Bradenton organizes ArtSlam, which has continued to grow over the years, and now merges with the downtown Bradenton farmers market.
"For the community, the arts are really central to creativity and teamwork," Isham said.
Seven-year-old Denyaw Miller was quietly smiling as she painted a birdhouse alongside several other children.
She was painting butterflies on it, which she said she loved, and smiled with a butterfly painted on her face.
"I'm going to hang it up in my tree," she said smiling.
Denyaw couldn't decide which part of ArtSlam was her favorite. A family member standing by said she had been loving everything.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.