High praise for Teaching Artists

Earlier this month, hundreds of kids and community members gathered to celebrate Artist in Schools at five different sites almost simultaneously. Five Artist in Schools units concluded with a sharing activity for the school community that showcased what the kids learned. 

Razdolna celebrated the study of metalsmithing with Teaching Artist Art Koeninger. Fireweed Academy celebrated storytelling with Teaching Artist Jack Dalton. Homer High School celebrated music, performance and dance with Teaching Artist Eddie Wood. Flex High School celebrated improvisational theater with Teaching Artist Martty Zeller. West Homer Elementary celebrated how dance and theater can elucidate science, math, history and literature with Teaching Artist Alison Marshall. Join me in thanking these Teaching Artists who invest generously in our youth’s education.

These programs are possible due to the commitment of teachers, who, as In-School Coordinators, facilitate the lesson planning, communication and coordination with the teaching artists for a successful residency. Hats off to Jenny Sorensen, Deb Schmidt, Gordon Pitzman, Karen Wessel and Judy Gonsalves and the school administrators who support their recognition of the arts’ power to integrate learning on multiple levels.  

Homer’s biennial Teaching Artist Academy also took place recently. Special thanks to Carol Swartz and the Kachemak Bay Campus for hosting this exciting opportunity for professional development for teachers and artists. By offering continuing educational credit for this course, we attracted teachers. They in turn added immeasurably to the depth of inquiry around lesson planning and the arts, networking for artists and a sense of welcome artists feel to teach in our schools. 

I thank Kenai Peninsula District Art Specialist Debbie Harris for designing and leading this workshop with me, and Alaska State Council on the Arts for a workshop grant that helped make this opportunity affordable to locals. As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” By working in concert, we strengthen our community and support for our youth. 

I look forward to a spring semester as exciting as this fall with several more AIS units at local schools like Paul Banks, Chapman, Nikolaevsk, Seldovia, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Vosnesenka and Kachemak Selo as long as funds are available. It is a privilege to work with these organizations and individuals, teachers and artists as the local presenter of Artist in Schools with support from Jazzline, Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Rasmuson and Alaska USA. 

Asia Freeman, executive/artistic director

Bunnell Street Arts Center