Pilot project immerses artists into local schools


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

In the two years since its creation, Key Peninsula’s Two Waters Arts Alliance has built prominence, offering classes and lending the talents of its members for all sorts of creative needs around the community.

But the group has never stopped looking for new ideas on making the arts more accessible to local residents, young and old. This year, TWAA is taking its forte to a most impressionable audience: children in schools.

A pilot program, called Artists in Schools and closely modeled by a similar, very successful program on Vashon Island, will take artists into the classrooms to share their skills with students. Teachers at the four local schools could then use any of the participating artists as collaborators, to work with their students as part of the curriculum while following the themes or subjects being taught.

Two Waters has recruited eight artists for the pilot, but plans to expand the program in the fall, and recruit interested artists from all fields.

“The teachers will be working closely with the artists, it’s a win-win situation for everybody and I think it will make our community unique,” said TWAA’s Paddy Gilson, who is spearheading the project.

A recently retired teacher herself, Gilson remembers those times when she would have loved to enhance her curriculum with various extra projects but the resources were not available. When she retired last June after 30 years of teaching, and heard about TWAA’s idea for the program, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be involved.

“Part of Two Waters’ focus is to bring the arts to the children, and we felt this is a good way to do it,” she said. “There are so many ways for the teachers to use the artists.”

The group has shared its concept recently with Peninsula School District’s Superintendent Jim Coolican, and the district has pledged its collaboration.

TWAA is trying to secure grants that will pay the artists for their time as well for supplies. The group encourages local artists who are comfortable working with children to apply to be listed in the “catalog.” When the fall program begins, the list of participating artists and their areas of interest will be available to the four schools, and any teacher who would like to invite an artist for a short-term or long-term project can work with TWAA to find the best match.

Basket weavers, actors, photographers, writers, poets, painters, potters, cultural presenters—all visual, performing, media and literary arts are welcome.

While engaging the children in artistic opportunities is certainly the goal of Artists in School, Gilson hopes for one more outcome: sparking artistic talents. “For children to see that art can be an occupation and for them to work with an artist may inspire them to become professional artists too,” she said.

Artists in Schools

Artists, teachers, parents are invited to share ideas and become part of Artists in School. A meeting on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. will be held for the organizing group at the Civic Center, and anyone is welcome to attend. Contact TWAA at 884-9200. Applications will be collected in the spring. Community members who would like to donate funds specifically for the program are also welcome to contact TWAA. More information will soon be available at the TWAA’s upcoming Website—watch for announcements.