WEEKI WACHEE — Winding Waters K-8 School's second annual Buzzin' Beatnik Cafe was spiffed up this year with a new backdrop painted by seventh-graders Desiree Saxe and Gabrielle Boswell.
The 13-year-old girls were encouraged by their classmate Madison Zernick, who wanted them to paint Van Gogh's The Starry Night on the cloth, which acts as a dreamy background to the student poets.
Gabrielle suggested that Desiree was the best choice for the job because she "is the renowned artist throughout the school." And Gabrielle said she painted it along with her friend because "I'm always drawing with Desiree."
"This is going to be the official backdrop," Desiree said.
Media specialist Liz Marion was delighted with the new backdrop, dominated with the blues and yellow of the famous painting, so much so that she has asked the two artists if they would do some murals in the media center over summer break.
The Buzzin' Beatnik Cafe is Marion's effort to help students present themselves to audiences.
"They need to learn how to speak in front of people with some confidence," she said.
The students selected poems to read, or wrote their own. Participation was open to all middle school students. This year, there were more than 20 performers.
Marion said the event encouraged the students to read as they searched for poems. They practiced reading the poems with feeling. The cafe was a new experience for many of them, as they stood in the spotlight and recited their selections.
The spectators sat at tables and were served cookies, doughnut holes and beverages. Groups of students who weren't performing visited the media center throughout the school day. The show was repeated in the evening for parents and other guests, and a pasta dinner was served.