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This multi-media painting was created by Little Miners Montessori School and will be on display at the Newtown Public Library as a tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. (Photo courtesy of Katie Noble)
A month after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in December, Katie Noble, whose daughter Elizabeth Phillips attends Little Miners Montessori School, wanted to do something for the Newtown, Conn., community.

She came up with an idea of creating a painting inspired by Audrey Penn's children's book, "The Kissing Hand."

"The kids at Little Miner's do a service project every month and I had an idea of creating a painting for the Sandy Hook students after that terrible tragedy," Noble said during an interview with The Park Record. "I asked the school's founder and director, Subie Stone, if the students would participate in an art project."

The painting, which stands four feet by five feet, is a scene from Penn's book that depicts a raccoon nestled in a tree.

"'The Kissing Hand' is about a young raccoon named Chester who is very nervous about his first day at school and all of the new challenges that come with leaving home," Noble said. "His mother comforts him by telling him the secret of the Kissing Hand. She asks him to open his paw, then kisses it and closes his paw around the kiss. She tells him when he gets scared or nervous, no matter where he is, to place the hand she kissed on his cheek so he knows his mom loves him and is always with him in spirit."

Subie liked the idea and recruited her art teacher, Wren Ross, who worked with the students to paint hands that were cut out of construction paper.

"The idea was to use the hands that were painted with acrylic paints as leaves on the tree," Noble said.


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"There are 120 hands on the tree, and each classroom had a different color. One had yellow, another had red and the last was orange.

"She was great," Noble said about Ross. "I couldn't have wrangled all these kids to do that."

Originally, the project was going to be a quilt, but Noble changed her mind.

"As it turns out, I know nothing about quilts," she said with a laugh. "In fact, I know less than nothing. So, as time passed, I realized it would be a little much to take on."

As it turned out, the painting idea started in January and wrapped up on the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The process did prove to be challenging.

"I remember taking three or four hours to arrange and rearrange the hands just right so I could glue them in place," Noble said.

Everything was fine, until a couple of days later when Noble went to check on the painting and saw that each hand had curled up and peeled off the painting.

"They were scattered all over the floor like actual leaves that had fallen off a tree," Noble said. "I sat there for a while and had no idea of how to fix it, because it was too much of a project."

Her husband, Mark Phillips came to the rescue.

"He is very resourceful and decided to use some cement to reattach the hands," she said. "We reglued everything and then we sprayed it and used a sealer on it and it is holding."

The next trick was to figure out how to send the painting to Connecticut, but Noble didn't have to look too far for help.

"Since I'm not to be trusted with anything delicate, Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullen, who is a good friend of mine, said she would pack the art up and pay for the shipping," Noble said. "Maren told me that would be her contribution."

The painting, which was sent on Friday, will be displayed at the Newtown Library.

"I have developed a great relationship with the Newtown Library director, Beryl Harrison," Noble said. "We have been calling and emailing back and forth since January."

Shortly after the shootings, she said, Sandy Hook Elementary had received two warehouses full of donations.

"The library archived all the items and distributed them to people in the community or put them into storage," Noble explained. "When I initially called, the donations had slowed to a trickle."

Since the school wasn't open, Noble called the library to see if they were interested in displaying the painting.

"Beryl talked with the children's librarian, who was very excited to have it, because Audrey Penn, who wrote "The Kissing Hand," is going to be at the library to donate a bunch of books in a few weeks," Noble said. "They thought having the painting on display would be a nice tie in with the author's visit. I was so happy. This was super cool, because I had no idea that the author was going to come."

The coincidence served as a good sign for Noble.

"I love that book," she said. "I have read it to my daughter a bunch of times and she loves it, and I thought it sent such a good message about kids going to school and being a little scared. And who has more reason to be scared than the children in Newtown. We hope they will find comfort in the painting."