MADISON, NJ - Beginning this week, downtown Madison is going to look a bit more colorful as high school students participate in the annual holiday window painting.

Four years ago, the Chamber of Commerce and the Madison Arts Culture Alliance decided to beautify stores by having them decorated with festive winter themes. Art students from all four grades are invited to participate along with a few people from Drew University and the Chamber recruits the retailers.

From its inception, the stores and teens have been receptive and enjoyed it, said Judy Mullins, who is on the board of the Chamber and the Arts Culture Alliance and owns Poor Herbie's. Mullins told The Alternative Press the goal is for people to think and shop local.

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The kids get a list of stores to choose from and the Chamber pays each retailer a fee to cover the costs of the supplies. Additionally, each youngster gets community service hours, which are needed to graduate.

“It’s really a nice way for them to take an active role building our downtown,” she said.

Each year the number of students and stores participating has increased, except this year when the amount of retailers is slightly less. There are teams of kids assigned to each business and they paint snowballs, Santa, ornaments, penguins, ski slopes and many other things.

“They really are very clever and the store owners enjoy it,” Mullins said. “It’s a great team effort.”

She said since the painting began, the community has been really receptive to it. While some kids are nervous, the majority are excited, she said.

“I think it’s a pretty unique project,” Mullins said. “It’s a sign of the kind of spirit we have in Madison.”

The windows will be finished on Thanksgiving and on display for the town to see when the Christmas parade takes place on Black Friday.

Art teacher Heather Sokolowski said while the students don’t work on the project in class, she is there to help them with their ideas or sketches. However, anytime they finish her assignments early they usually jump into their window designs.

“We really try to emphasize with them its like working for a client,” she said.

It’s like doing an internship because they aren’t getting paid, yet they are designing what the store owner wants, Sokolowski said.

Math teacher Marcia Prill is in her first year as project coordinator of the school and is very excited for the holiday window painting. For the past seven years, the school has been running Community Service Day in the spring and Prill is extremely active in it and loves to volunteer.

While some of the kids work on their designs in her class, she is eager to see how they turn out, she said.

“I thought this would be a really great way to expand my involvement,” Prill said.