Tara Swanson, a fifth-grade teacher at Seward Elementary School, worked with local artist Marissa Amor to have students in Swanson’s fifth grade class learn more about art by having Amor work with the students. Amor spent time in Swanson’s classroom helping students with art projects.
“Following the completion of the pilot program, it became clear that this was an idea with a lot of potential to expand,” said Swanson.
Swanson then went to Jay Leslie, a Seward Arts Council board member, to work on expanding the program. Swanson and Leslie worked to gain funding to provide for 10 artist residencies in the schools.
According to Swanson, the purpose is to, “bolster art education in the community.”
Working with Leslie and other members of the Seward Arts Council, Swanson is hoping to give educators in the Seward area access to art professionals and resources in order to implement high-quality art instruction in their classrooms, and to provide income opportunities to local artists.
Swanson and Leslie held meetings with local artists and gathered information from Seward teachers to develop and expand the program.
The program has received commitments to fund 10 individual artist residencies with generous donations from the Seward Community Foundation, the Seward Arts Council and the Seward Parent Teacher Association. All three schools in Seward will have access to the new program in the 2020-21 school year.
Swanson says the program is uniquely flexible in that it will allow each teacher to choose an artist based on their skills, background, experience, and area of expertise. Each local artist will be vetted and approved by the Seward Arts Council. A call out to local artists who are interested in participating in this program will be forthcoming.
Swanson and Leslie are looking forward to seeing the impact of this program play out on-the-ground.
“The tremendous flexibility and focus on local educators and professionals cultivates a supportive professional community, and will increase the quality and diversify the exposure of art instruction that we can offer our students in Seward,” said Swanson.
In addition to promoting increased access to high-quality art instruction, the program also has plans for public exhibits of student artwork. Dates and locations of exhibits will be announced.
Swanson said she would like to see the program expanded to include Moose Pass School and local artists from Moose Pass.
The current plan is to bring the program into the schools during the upcoming school year. When asked exactly how that will work, Swanson said she is not sure at this point. Currently she said they are working under the expectation that there will be an opportunity for students to be in the classroom with the artists. She said if that is not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has ideas on using video instruction to conduct the program.
“We will try to make it work with what we have” said Swanson.