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  1. Visual Arts

Pinellas County school kids get a chance to design license plates

CLEARWATER — The Pinellas County tax collector is going into the art business.

Wearable art, in a sense, since it will enliven the exterior of cars. Even better, it will be an art and entrepreneurial opportunity for elementary school students.

Tax Collector Diane Nelson recently announced Kid Tag Art, a partnership between her office, the public school system and private sponsors, in which elementary-age students will create vanity plates that will be sold, with most of the money returned to their teachers for supplies and field trips.

"Kids Tag Art provides the opportunity for students to expand their horizons and learn about the economic benefits of art," she said in a statement.

The program originated in Polk County and in 10 years, raised $250,000 to benefit art education, said Brenna Haggar, manager of public affairs for Nelson's office.

Like most art by young children, the images reflect what is on their minds, from an appeal to save Florida panthers to a visual inventory of toys. In some cases, they have been taught rules of composition of color; in others, the young artists seem blithely unaware of rules.

Because sponsorships are an integral part of the program, you also see corporate logos.

The Pinellas program will start small

"The first year," she said, "we'll work with 20 elementary schools so we can make sure we're doing it right. After that, we hope to open it up to all elementary schools, private schools and home-schooled students."

Early in the fall, qualifying teachers will receive templates and lesson plans so the plates comply with state standards. During four classes over one month, students design and execute artwork for their individual tags.

The Tax Collector's Office will post all of them online — potentially 2,300, Haggar said — and as orders come in, they will be printed on a hard plastic that can be put on the front of a car.

At this point, the anticipated cost is $25 but Haggar said they may be less.

Sponsorships will underwrite expenses and, to date, the county has raised more than $30,000.

The tags will go on sale online Nov. 1.

For more information, go to kidstagartpinellas.org.

Contact Lennie Bennett at lbennett@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8293.

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