Never is a strong word. A word that compels one to break boundaries, expand borders and reach farther than, as “never” implies, has ever been done before. I had only made efforts to do what I believed in, without ever knowing how far the path might take me. I hadn’t realized that there would be people encountered along the way that would make this story far more than mine alone. It has become a story belonging to a community of people who see things differently, and upon this we seem to agree.
I sat in the board room looking at the charts before me, while listening to educators, health professionals and academicians share their thoughts, concerns and potential solutions to matters related to their schools. When the topic of Art Education came up, I admittedly held my breath, knowing quite well that this hasn’t been a top ranking priority for schools in my community. Aware that even the most privileged children I encounter can seldom seem to recall their first or last trip to a museum or cultural establishment, I felt terrified and concerned, wondering if this dream of making art classes available to every school in one city would find favor among the other members when the concept was presented. If there were any, I’m not aware of a single objection. The following weeks would be agonizing as I waited for the final word. Then the message came, “ART IN SCHOOLS has been approved for all Smiths Station and Salem sixth grade classes.”
On the first Monday in October, another page will be added to local history. Never before has an academic fine arts educational program for visual arts been provided to every elementary school in the Smiths Station area. This Monday, the word “never” will no longer relate to the topic of Art in Education throughout Smiths Station. In a rural community turned city along the railroad tracks history is made through connections bringing together people who believe in the possibilities.
ART IN SCHOOLS, a program made possible through collaborations between the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, A Center for Cultural Arts and the Lee County Board of Education will prioritize academic visual arts in education through classes made available to every sixth grade student as part of their current school year 2019-2020. It is to the credit of local and state government leaders and educators who have chosen to recognize the value and importance of arts in education that the provision of this program is realized.