Artwork by Lewiston sixth graders appears on tote bags at local businesses

Connors Primary School student Feza Kisimba took a break from art class at Lewiston School on Wednesday morning. Russ Dillingham/The Daily Sun

LEWISTON — At just 12 years old, Feza Kisimba is already finding success in her art.

For the past few weeks, Rogue Wear in Lewiston has been selling totes and pencil cases featuring bright and stylish drawings created by sixth graders at Lewiston’s Conners Elementary School. It’s the latest limited-edition design from the Lewiston-based company, which has been selling bags emblazoned with the artist’s print since the middle of the pandemic.

To date, Rogue Wear has received about 100 online orders for the tote and pencil case. Kisimba will receive a portion of the proceeds, which can be used to purchase iPads, Apple pencils, digital painting programs and other art supplies. The company also raised an additional $700 in donations.

Connors Elementary School art teacher Kelsey Boucher (left) and students Feza Kisimba and Tina Edmonds showcased three Kisimba-designed bags available for purchase from Rogue Wear in Lewiston in October. submitted photos

The collaboration was initiated by Kisimba’s art teacher Kelsey Boucher, whose father owns Rogue Wear.

Over the years, Boucher watched Kissimba develop an artistic talent far beyond her peers, calling her an “absolutely crazy artist”. When she arrived at school this fall with a watercolor depicting fruit salad, Boucher showed it to her father and asked Kisimba if he would collaborate with Rogue Wear.

Hand assembled at Rogue Wear’s Lewiston factory, these bags are made from waterproof canvas. In the center is a leather label with Kisimba’s signature stitched on it.

“It’s not every day that you have a student, let alone an elementary school student, whose work looks so professional,” Boucher said.

In October, Boucher and Kisimba visited the Westminster Street factory to watch several bags featuring Kisimba’s designs being made. She came home with a bag and gave it to her mother. Several other bags sit in a display case outside Connors Boucher’s classroom.

Kisimba, a quiet and modest girl, doesn’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about. Based on an image she found on Pinterest, she says the design probably took her about three hours to sketch and paint.

“Those didn’t take that long for me,” she said. “I did five a day.”

Most days, Kissimba comes to Boucher’s room during lunch and breaks to make art. She also brought some supplies home so she can work from home.

In October, Feza Kisimba watched as one of the bags, printed with a watercolor of fruit salad, was assembled at Rogue Wear’s Lewiston factory. submitted photos

In the classroom, Boucher says, Kisimba often oversteps the curriculum and rarely needs to start over. She often painted portraits—one of Martin Luther King Jr. Sitting unfinished in her locker – but she’s also created all sorts of quirky designs. One of her pieces simply depicts a girl holding a banana phone with the words “ring ring ring” written on it.

“I think, for her, art is what she does,” Boucher said. “She has no reason . . . she just does it, and it’s no big deal to her.”

“There’s no rhyme, no reason, no deep meaning, no essential questions,” she added. “No, you know what I’m saying, (her art) is what it is. It’s perfect for the art world.”

But art isn’t Kisimba’s only interest, Boucher said. She loves to read, sometimes delving into history books or researching “really weird, interesting things”.

Off-campus, she is also a member of the Connors Civil Rights team, a program that promotes the inclusion of students of diverse identities and backgrounds in schools.

“She’s interested in a lot of things,” Boucher said. “People always think that because she’s so good, she just wants to do something in the arts, but I’m sure she doesn’t even think about it. She just has fun doing it.”

The totes will remain on Rogue Wear’s online store for the next few weeks, and some will be available at its retail store in Lewiston.

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