Adam Scholze wanted to illustrate feelings of compassion in his artwork, but he didn’t want to draw another picture of a heart.

Taking markers to a 6-by-6-inch canvas, the 13-year-old created a colorful scene of people mourning the death of a loved one at a funeral. Scholze came up with the idea because he has suffered through the death of close family members, one of the hardest being his great-grandmother.

He knows compassion means a lot in times of tragedy.

“You got to relate to it to be able to draw it,” Scholze said.

The Lincoln Middle School eighth-grade student’s artwork will join more than 6,000 canvases this spring when it goes on display at The Pump House Regional Arts Center. Each student in the La Crosse School District will submit a canvas for the La Crosse Compassion Project, finding a way to define compassion through artistry.

Each student starts with the same size canvas —6-by-6 inches — but what they do on it depends on their own creativity.

Lincoln art teacher Lynnae Burns asked students to reflect on the meaning of the word compassion, what it looks like  and when they’ve felt compassion from others. Students were able to take their own ideas about the word and try to depict those ideas with different materials and artistic techniques.

Students could use pencil, collage, marker — even words, if they wanted, Burns said.

“The outcome is very dramatically different because it’s all personal,” Burns said.

Tanner Lepsch, 13, used paint to create an interesting shade of gray for his picture of a sunrise.

“You could kind of spread your feelings out,” Lepsch said. “You didn’t have to say it to some one, you could just draw it.”

Fuegie Xiong, 13, drew a picture of a homeless child crying, with a giant hand reaching down. The hand is a metaphor for the support needed by people who live in poverty, Xiong said.

He struggled with an idea for the project, wanting to illustrate all of the different emotions that can come along with compassion.

“I thought it was kind of hard,” Xiong said. “I tried to put all of them together.”

The project is well worth the extra time it has taken up, Burns said. Her students have spent much of the school year working on their project, and many are still perfecting their designs, adding and tweaking as they reconsider the meaning of compassion.

“Doing it in small spurts has helped,” Burns said.

Students also will have to write an artist’s statement, explaining the thought process and creative work that went into their piece.

The Pump House display opens May 2 and run through June 28, showcasing all of the artwork by La Crosse students. People will also be able to see the students’ canvases online after the Pump House opening.

Students have an opportunity to showcase their work for the community, but it’s also a chance for the community to see what’s happening inside local schools, Scholze said.

“I think it’s a good idea to see what our future is drawing,” Scholze said.

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