After what is described as a team effort involving hundreds of residents from Venice and Marina del Rey, Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School in Venice has won the top honor at the 2007 Bravo Awards for its excellence in arts education.

The school, which places arts education and arts integration as a top priority, won the Los Angeles Music Center’s Bravo Award for outstanding school in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Coeur d’Alene principal Rex Patton wrote a 60-page application explaining how the teaching of the arts at the school has led the students to excel academically, raising test scores some 200 points. That application led to the school being chosen as one of the finalists.

Coeur d’Alene will receive $10,000 for its arts program for winning the award.

“We believe that the academic and emotional intelligence progress that we have made over the last few years can be attributed to the music, visual arts, dance, drama and violin teachers from our partners in education,” Patton said. “Coeur d’Alene’s Academic Performance Index scores went up to 877 this past year and our subgroups of English Language Learners (ELL) and Socio-Economic Disadvantaged Students went up above 800 for the first time as well.”

When six Bravo Award judges came to visit the school in February, the school community — 486 students, dozens of teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, and hundreds of parents — pulled together to make an effort to win the award, according to Friends of Coeur d’Alene president Virginia Albanese.

“For the Bravo judges’ visit, the entire school schedule was changed so that all art and physical education classes, including our after-school programs, were held on this one day,” she said. “Our parents are terrific, very involved in the school.

“The importance of having all of the arts integrated into their children’s education is not taken for granted and we support our administration and teachers as much as possible.”

That day, almost every one of the nearly 500 students participated in the Bravo judges’ visit, showing the judges their excellence during music, dance, poetry and computer graphics classes, she said.

Children as young as six years old in the first grade showed the judges how they are learning to write and illustrate their own books using a computer graphics program called Kid Pix.

Parents coordinated a schoolwide art exhibit which transformed Coeur d’Alene’s auditorium into an art gallery for the judges’ visit. Students were allowed to submit their favorite piece of artwork.

“We wanted the children to take pride in the piece they selected, and not be limited by too many rules,” said exhibit chair Sherry Dean Curreri, a parent and professional artist.

“There was an incredible variety of artwork by kids as young as four years old in pre-kindergarten, and so many of the 120 pieces in the exhibit were extraordinary,” Curreri said

Longtime Marina del Rey resident Heather Kahler explained how the community effort was a life lesson for her young daughter.

“When my five-year-old daughter Sarah was making her art project for the Bravo Award exhibit, I asked her to put in her best effort, explaining that her work was going to be in an art show to try to win an award, but not just for her,” Kahler said. “Her art would be combined with many of other student’s work to try to win an award for the entire school.

“Today, after I told her that we won the award, she told her dad about it with excitement and pride.”

The school has classes in visual arts, music, poetry, dance, and the kinesthetic arts such as yoga and soccer.

While the school is a public school, much of the funding for these classes comes from private organizations such as the Creative Artists Agency Foundation, Sports Club Los Angeles and PS Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the arts to public education.

For the children, the art and music classes are a bright spot in the middle of their school day.

“Music is fun and you learn about rhythms and beats,” said fifth-grader Blair Hutson.

“I like learning new songs on the recorder and it’s fun and challenging,” added fellow fifth-grader Gina Kotos.

First-grader Madison Clark said she loves the art classes. “It’s all about having fun,” she said, “and you get to make stuff.”