Yesterday was a bittersweet day.

Outreach is a critical part of the mission at JCSM. This year, I’ve been able to spend two Thursdays a month teaching at South Smiths Station Elementary school. SSES does not currently have an art teacher, but teachers and administrators there sought out our support. Last year during a tour at JCSM, fourth grade teacher Evelyn Baldwin asked me if I could provide art lessons for the students. I was thrilled to have the chance to be in a classroom, and explore art making with excited young students.

And what a great year it was! We made travel posters for the regions of Alabama (making connections to geography), musical instruments and rockets (using science and math skills), paper mache animals, prints, still-life drawing, and even had art history discussions. The hard work of the students was matched by their enthusiasm. While most of my mornings are fueled by coffee, the bright faces of eager learners helped wake me up, and kept me going throughout the day.

Yesterday was my last day traveling to SSES, which made me sad. But the many kind words of thanks, and a substantial number of candy bars certainly made the end of the year easier to handle. I want to express my deepest thanks to Mrs. Duke, Mrs. Ward, Mrs. Evans, and Mrs. Baldwin for allowing me to work with their students, and for their constant encouragement. Of course this would not have been possible without the support from Principal Smith and Assistant Superintendent Hunter at Lee County Schools. Their dedication and commitment to the arts in elementary education is deep, and deeply appreciated.

I also want to thank all of the students that were such a joy to work with. It was your hard work that made your art look so wonderful. I know that you’ll keep practicing your art, and making wonderful, creative, inventive new things!

JCSM continues to work to support local schools that need help with art education. And there are things that you can do to help.

First, be sure you voice your support of art education to your representatives at every level of government. Support your local school board as they work to find the budget to hire art and music teachers. Through Parent-Teacher organizations, fundraisers for art supplies, and other events at local schools, you can help ensure that every school has a full-time art educator.

Second, if you want to directly support JCSM’s outreach to schools, contact our development office online, or by calling 334-844-1675.

Museum outreach efforts demonstrate the value of art education in a very real way, helping teachers and parents make the case to school administrators and state legislators that art teachers are needed in every building. Please consider helping us continue this important work.

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