Arts should be focal point

Artists in Schools — what a phenomenal program for students and teachers alike. This winter Fireweed Academy Charter School was fortunate to  host two local artists,  encaustic artist Ann-Margret Wimmerstedt and percussionist Eddie Wood through the AIS program  supported by Bunnell Street Arts Center and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

Ann-Margret worked with our third-sixth graders, incorporating the encaustic techniques with our quarterly theme — inventions. After a historical overview of encaustic painting and a discussion of the inventive contribution of bees to the projects, students picked up their blow torches and hot palettes (yes, they had a safety lecture first) and began the process of applying wax to boards, fusing with torches and irons and playing with the color palette. Wire, beads, paper and shells were soon  added. The process required the students to put aside the need for instant gratification and look at the bigger picture and the longer term. The results were impressive. A collaborative piece from this workshop can be seen at the Homer Legislative Information Office. 

Percussionist Eddie Wood worked with our kindergarten through second-grade students, introducing them to his “family” of instruments — mbiras, shakers and a wide variety of drums. Students learned that the first percussion music was their mothers’ heartbeat. Movement, story-telling and percussion were combined to create magic and engagement. Students were transported to Planet Drum, auditions were given and bands were formed, concerts were free and everyone — students, friends and families — danced.  

 We thank the Bunnell Street Arts Center, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Rep. Paul Seaton and Sen. Gary Stevens for their continued support with Artists in Schools. When we hear comments like “this is the best art project ever” and we see the students completely engaged and experimenting with new rhythms, materials and techniques, we know why the arts should be a focal point in our educational process.

 Janet Bowen, administrative assistant

Fireweed Academy