Time to be thankful and express gratitude

25 11 2013

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I am thankful for the school community and the warm embrace I received since moving here seven years ago.  I left Wisconsin to a for a new job, new State, new culture, and renewed opportunity to build a art program.  Moving to Arkansas from Wisconsin was a choice we made as a family to open doors we could not open in Wisconsin.  I left a wonderful teaching position with great students who I loved very much.  It was comfortable, great art budget, and I was making progress yearly with my teaching.

One thing that eluded me was the ability to impact the whole community. Not just my studio, school, but the whole city.  I tried breaking in as a art teacher and an artist but it was challenging.  I did my community service projects but it was only a local impact.  I wanted to have a much bigger impact.

Now, in Little Rock it is like a whole new world.  I still do all my community service projects but I can affect a greater population.  I have been successful with my work as an artist too.  I had my work in a local art gallery for a year, until I got too busy with all my student works to complete my art work.  I have spoken at the Clinton Presidential Library several times and had my students works performed and presented many times at the Presidential Library.  We win awards at the state level annually, my students art works are recognized in the Governor’s Mansion and Arkansas Art Center, we raise the expectations not just for our school campus but for the greater community.   My artists graduate and move on to great art schools and do very well.

This year I will be presenting at the National Art Convention about the many events and community projects I have been able to carry out in Little Rock.  I would have never had the courage to propose the workshop presentations without the success I have had in Little Rock.

Today at the Mission Market in Little Rock, there were several different booths set up selling products to help educate and promote non-profit organizations/programs.  As I hurried to set up our Homes for Haiti booth, I looked around the room and several tables had our students serving as the sponsors.  All the other tables had adults running their booths but I was impressed by our students informing and promoting other area programs to help others.  This is the Sunday of our Thanksgiving break at 8 AM.  That is pretty great for teenagers.

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I work in a school where all the graduating Seniors give Senior speeches.  Most of the Seniors refer to the school community as their second family.   I do spend a lot of time during school and outside of school with my students.  I truly find my students engaging, funny, intelligent, talented, and kind people.  They are people I am proud to know and claim as mine.

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I am thankful for my school family and the positive influence they make on the larger community.  Well done!  For the record we raised $390.00 for the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund while we had some fun.

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Art in the Garden- Interdisciplinary Event

16 11 2013

One very magical evening that combined some of my most favorite things bundled into one.  I will admit I have some ideas floating in my head of things I would like to achieve in my lifetime.  I love art, music (soft spot for violin and harp), gardening, poetry, parties, and night light.  I also love a challenge.  I often set goals to achieve and I can do them but when I have a challenge I’m not one to put my tail between my legs and run.

When making, designing, and writing plans you have to weigh all the tangible and intangible.  When planning an event you have to plan and have several back up plans.  But reaching for the stars has never been a problem, I may not always get there but I still strive to.

A very beautiful event happened at school and the event helped to bring together so many people, plus open hearts and minds.  We organized a school garden committee three years ago with hopes of having a garden and outdoor classroom.  We linked curricular areas, demonstrated how we would implement the ideas into our courses, etc.  It has been a labor we all love and are super excited about it.

We have a garden and outdoor classroom area but it was hardly used.  So we decided to change that and host an event to draw attention to the space and bring more interest to utilizing the garden space more.  Now, it is November so not much can be planted. So we didn’t do that, instead we covered the flower beds with straw and left a few bales for plinths for ceramic sculptures.  We added seasonal gourds, flowers, and other details.  We added string lights, up lights, and lanterns.  Student’s talents were put on display for the evening.

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Back up a month or more and start to plan for the ceramic sculptures to be displayed, plan out the lesson, order the supplies, fire the kiln for each piece both bisque fire and glaze fire.  Create a program and organize the teachers and students.  Contact parents and call in favors to make the event go off without a penny spent.  Choose the beverage and food, create the invitations, and who will be invited….so many things before we can even get started.  One might just give up…I still teach five different classes and two active clubs. Oh, I also have Curbside Couture Runway Show not too far behind.  I have presentations to create for classes, art work to grade, display, and upload to Artsonia.

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I was not going to let this idea go away.  Luckily, I have amazing colleagues who are just as determined as I am.  I also have talented, kind, and helpful students who step up for whatever is asked of them.  So the garden beds started to be set up on the Monday before the event to give time to the other art teachers to set up art pieces. Garden Committee members baked cookies and purchased apple cider.  Additions of lights and other Fall decorations populated the garden space.  The kiln in the studio was working overtime to try to get everything done on time.

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The day of the event the school day ended and my car was loaded with sculptures, cookies, apple cider, and additional decorations.  The art work was placed, musicians prepared, the refreshment table set up, and poetry readers prepped.  All we had left to do was light the lanterns and pass out the programs.  As the light faded from the sky, the white string lights provided a glow in the garden beds, candlelit lanterns lined the pathway, and a circle of benches surrounded our poetry venue.   The up lights danced amber light on the magnolia trees, and cider was heating up on the table.  Harp music filled the air and the parents, administrators, and students arrived.  I watched nervously off to the side with my camera poised to the faces of the people who entered the garden space.  Smiles and looks of awe filled up the garden.  Relief…it was everything I wanted it to be.  Magical, bliss, and celebration.  I hardly felt the cold.

Poetry reading Art in the Garden

 

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I would do it all again just to see my colleague’s faces, who believed in what I knew we could accomplish.  They giggled with excitement as the lights filled the space; they floated on the moonlight with the reciting of the poetry.  They danced in their minds among the crowds to the sweet harp and then violin music.  They celebrated with the artists as they expressed excitement of seeing their sculpture in the magical garden space.  Wow!  What a night.  I wish I could have one night a week like this night, for every week the rest of my teaching career.

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More than a Art Teacher…

3 11 2013

I have evolved over the years but really I have just become a more refined version of myself.  I love being an art teacher, I love teaching art at any level and in many forms.  I love bringing the opportunity for my students to reach a level of expression in an art form.  The “light” that is switched on is never turned off once it is switched on.  It may explode or it may become dull. It depends on the student but they never really loose that “light” that was turned on to discover originality, a new skill,  or a new way of expression.  The confidence and pride the student experiences is intrinsically connected to this moment.  You can recognize it when you see it and it is what keeps me in the studio with my students.

Now- I have always loved service learning or community service, whatever you want to call it – to me it is the same.

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I have been doing it my whole life…giving to others and improving even the smallest part of the world.  The past several years I have been able to inspire and encourage my students to find a way to dedicate themselves to a cause or an organization through my teaching.  I have been in a position to experiment and incorporate my ideas within my school day through my art club, culinary club, animal care, photo club, and curbside couture fashion show.  I am busy but blessed.

I am most proud when I listen to my students tell me about what they did to help others.  In the past years I have supported several organizations and included my students in my adventures.  The Egghisbition, Empty Bowls, BeLikeBrit orphan portraits, and several community activities that just need our artistic support to help raise funds.

The Homes for Haiti project has been my small project that I started to help me through a very tough time.  I initiated the project for an alumni art student of mine who was missing in Haiti after the earthquake for three days.  The thought of her passing was too much for me, so I did the project as a way to prepare and support the mission in Haiti she started.  Thankfully, my alumni student Missy was found and survived.  But the devastation in Haiti was terrible and the children in Haiti still needed our help.  My art students loved my little colorful houses and wanted to help me help the children.  So years later we are still raising money to support the Clinton Haiti Relief Fund.  This year alone we have set up our booth three different times (we have more scheduled events) and sold hundreds of pins, ornaments, and magnets.  We spend weekdays creating the houses and then our weekends selling our product and raising the awareness of the needs in Haiti.

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This weekend we set up our booth at The Cornbread Festival in a newly rejuvenated area in downtown Little Rock.  The Bernice Gardens is in a private garden in the city that features a collection of outdoor sculptures and space to set up events.  It is exciting to be apart of a community who sees the benefits of supporting local farmers, business owners, and capturing the safe small town feel in a bigger part of the city.  The work the organizers did to provide a fun, safe, family, atmosphere was wonderful.

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My students continue to become more effective at cold calling people in the street to hear about our Homes for Haiti project and the pride and passion they share with the community is contagious.  We raised $730.00 at the festival.  I received so many compliments from our customers as to how polite, knowledgeable, and passionate my students are about this project.  I have had several discussions with my students on the other benefits they have learned and experienced through our process of creating and marketing our Homes for Haiti project for their future plans in college.

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It’s all about making changes in the world big and small and we all can do it.  








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