The Edmond Sun
When creators at the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond saw a need for increased arts instruction among Edmond elementary students, they began the Art in Schools program.
“We started the first school programs in three elementary schools 11 years ago, Ida Freeman, Orvis Risner and Sunset,” said Mitzi Hancuff, executive director of the FAI, which is in its 27th year of operation.
“The first three schools were selected by the school district to give those students additional opportunities in art, and we now have eight schools in total with hopes to add an additional school each year.”
This year Angie Debo Elementary was added to the list of the original three schools which has now grown to include John Ross, Northern Hills, Charles Haskell and Will Rogers.
The Fine Arts Institute is Edmond’s nonprofit community arts organization offering educational enrichment for adults and children in the visual and performing arts.
Although art classes taught through the FAI to community members ranging from pre-school to a 93-year-old resident are the bread and butter of the school, Hancuff said the Art in Schools program is the passion of the FAI.
The Art in Schools program deals primarily with the visual arts.
In the late 1990s, a 75-member committee made a plan for the City of Edmond, the Arts Connect Cultural Plan, with a vision and goal to create educational programs and curriculum and to increase a passion for the arts, Hancuff said.
Art is in the Edmond School curriculum for fifth-grade students, but the Art in Schools program was created for students in the third and fourth grades.
Some members of the committee suggested that teachers with the FAI teach arts in the schools and it made sense financially, Hancuff said.
“We started with one teacher teaching third- and fourth-graders for the first three schools, and now we have five teachers teaching in the eight schools. Their salary, about $7,000 a school for each teacher, is shared by the FAI and the Edmond School District,” Hancuff added.
“We are fortunate to have a good quality of art teachers to pick from to help meet the needs of the district. The superintendent and school board have been very supportive of the program. Not only does it save them money, but it helps get art to the students at a younger age in a creative way.”
Hancuff said when future funds are available she would like to see art programs catering to the children and adults with special needs in the community.
In addition to helping pay the salaries, the district also gives about $1,000 to each school for supplies; some teachers spend their own money and occasionally the FAI helps fund a special art project in a school, Hancuff said.
“Our teachers are teaching Oklahoma PASS skills meaning the curriculum has to be taught in an organized manner,” Hancuff said.
The arts program doesn’t end at the schools. Even pre-schoolers are taught pointillism with Q-tips at the FAI and adults have a myriad of classes from which to choose.
The Edmond School District has four full-time fifth-grade art teachers and one part-time art teacher, said Rebecca Courtney, John Ross Elementary Art teacher.
Schools that do not have art teachers have Meet the Masters, an art appreciation program in which parents introduce students to famous artists and art styles, and Art Smart, which provides curriculum to help teachers with teaching art.
“Art stimulates the right side of our students’ brain and gets them thinking on a higher level by synthesizing a different type of thought process which exercises a different part of their learning,” Courtney said. “Research indicates test scores are usually raised when art is introduced as well as self-esteem.”
Art is a part of the elementary program in all of the schools, said Lynne Rowley, executive director of elementary education.
“Art in Schools is a value add for our schools involved in the FAI program as well as for the district, and provides our schools with art instruction and exposure that we would not be able to provide otherwise,” Rowley said. “It is our hope to eventually have the Art in Schools program at all of our elementary schools in the future.
“We are very fortunate that we have individuals in our community who through their generous donations to the Fine Arts Institute make this program possible.”
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