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An Evening with the Arts swept through the Altara Elementary School last week like a high wind, leaving principal Nancy M. Moore and other organizers in a happy daze, recounting their triumphs.

Thousands of visitors came, and many spent the full evening. Complimentary adjectives flew on all sides words like "fantastic," "fabulous," "total success," "impressive," "fun" and "exciting."Befitting Altara's standing as one of the nation's 200 outstanding schools in 1985-86, (receiving the elementary National Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education) PTA and faculty decided to put on an arts happening that would long be remembered. "We can't expect to do this every year," Moore said though after everybody had such a good time, the students may insist upon it.

Bianca Ence played the harp in the entry, as whole families dressed in their best came through, including babes in arms and high school students. All were instantly enveloped by the warmth, plenty, even abundance in hallways and classrooms, heaped full and running over with talent.

Flowers, soft music, the hum of voices and laughter helped create a sense of occasion at Altara, where you could hardly put a finger between the exhibits big, colorful, imaginative displays that did not take introversion for their theme.

Every wall in the open-plan school was covered with murals. "Spring is " was the jumping off place for many murals, with showers of splashy spring flowers made of construction paper, some centered with little pixy pie-plate faces, some filled with bunnies and Easter eggs, framed by tree-trunks of rough brown butcher paper. Some served as mountings for original stories that began with a set sentence such as "I dreamed it was raining " (cars, cats, etc.).

There were reptiles and amphibians, with jumping green frogs, turtles, alligators, eels and snakes around a pool's edge; murals of prehistoric animals dinosaurs and brontosauruses, and pterodactyls suspended in flight from the ceiling.

Art taught values in a mural of modern shapes in tri-colors with a theme poem: "There are so many colors around me every day, that make the trees so pretty and the flowers gay. But oh, the flag's bright colors mean the most to me. They are red, white and blue and spell our liberty!"

There were borders around classrooms and grouped pictures of trees covered with ruffly pink tissue blossoms; little mobiles hung with tooled leather scraps; pictures made of brightly colored tissue pasted in kaleidoscopic harmony; black silhouette profiles colorfully backed and mounted. Inventively twined wire creations had imaginative names like "My Bedroom," "Deformed Birdcage," "Time Tunnel," "Wireosaurus." Members of one class gave their impressions of the Mona Lisa 25 pictures, and every one a recognizable copy.

"Every child was asked to create a `masterpiece,' and we are having a silent auction to sell them off," said Moore. "We'll use the money for a special arts fund." Plenty of children were seen proudly leading parents to their own masterpieces.

In the multi-purpose room, lecture demos by Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and Ballet West, who also gave a mini-"Nutcracker," drew up to 500 spectators apiece. Alternating with the professionals, in the media center at the opposite end of the main hall, was a talent show, produced in-house, in three segments.

More than 50 children ages 7-11 passed an audition to be in this show, and went through their paces at the piano, singing, playing instruments or dancing, with hardly a fluff, enjoying the large audience. Tutus and ribbons, curled hair and dressup clothes (no grubbies) were the order of the evening, and stage deportment was polished, with confident entries and self-possessed bows. Riverton Music donated a grand piano, including hauling.

Spectators paused to watch sculptor Florence P. Hansen shape a little girl's head, then gradually transform her to old age, or peered over the shoulder of water colorist Betsy Campbell.

Co-chairmen for the event were Cindy Palmer and Shannon Hanks, with support from dozens of PTA members and all 36 teachers. Since districts stopped hiring resident arts teachers, homeroom teachers have found often unsuspected dimensions within themselves, to make possible the continuation of arts education.

Moore, now in her fifth year as principal of Altara, is committed to the arts program the school fosters. "Our arts offering is built around the four artists in residence we have every year, paid by the PTA. They help teach our students and our teachers to excel and to recognize the arts as the essence of enrichment, developing our aesthetic feelings," she said.