Bringing Art to Children in Schools and Homes


Colleen Slater

A reluctant dragon ready for flight after an in-class lesson in conjunction with a live performance of “The Reluctant Dragon” sponsored by Two Waters Arts Alliance. Courtesy TWAA

The Two Waters Arts Alliance has been bringing artistic instruction and experiences to Key Peninsula schools since 2001, and the program continues to expand.

“TWAA’s Artists in Schools program has three components, all on the KP,” said artist Patty Finnigan. “We work in the three elementary schools, offer classes to home-schooled students and have an after-school program at Key Peninsula Middle School. As curriculums have become tighter and more focused, art has pretty much been dropped from the core subjects taught in public schools. Our goal is to broaden the students’ experience and complement their other lessons.”

Lesson plans for the elementary schools are prepared in conjunction with an annual puppet theater production by the traveling Tears of Joy theater company, brought to KP schools by TWAA. Art projects reflect the themes and lessons from the performances.

“Artist teachers range in artistic knowledge and specialize in their particular mediums,” said Adria Hanson, a participating artist and home school art administrator for TWAA. “Students enjoy creating and being inspired no matter who the teacher is.”

“Creating art provides a number of benefits,” Finnigan said. “Students develop hand-eye coordination, improve their fine motor skills, learn about art materials and color, and practice attentive listening. Art projects challenge students to follow detailed instructions, exercise their creative minds, express their individuality, experiment and play.”

Anna Bradshaw recently signed on as a grant writer for TWAA. “I’ve been amazed at how creative our kids can be when an attitude of positivity is interjected in their day,” she said. “I make a point of affirming the individual as an actual artist, connecting with the joy of making and encouragement to express one’s self.”

Last year’s offerings included printmaking, fabric/tapestry, watercolor landscapes and tin toiling. This year’s work includes learning art history from Paleolithic to Greek art in pottery, and learning simple to complex techniques in painting, portraiture from found materials, collage, cartooning, oil pastel, acrylic, watercolor and mixed materials.

This is the third year of home schooling involvement in AIS.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for home-schoolers to have such a diverse array of artists to teach them artistic approaches every month,” Hanson said. “It is not often, except in art schools or art camps, that children are exposed to so many artists throughout the year. Most home-school mothers do not tackle art, and we know art is valuable to a child of any age to learn and focus and expand their mental capacities.”

“When I go into the classroom, my goal is to present a no-fail art project,” Finnigan said. “I want all students to enjoy the process, have an opportunity to express themselves and feel successful at completion. I want to convey that in art, there is no ‘right’ answer; each person creates his or her own unique solution. When children are excited to take their artwork home to share with their families, I feel successful.”

TWAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported entirely by donations, memberships, volunteers and grants. Any artists willing to teach may contact Hanson at For more information about TWAA, go to