Shared from the 2017-07-12 Chattanooga eEdition



With all types of art not a given in every Hamilton County public school, area residents are fortunate to have an organization like ArtsBuild to provide exposure to presentational arts for every first- through fourth-grader.

Now, that exposure will be extended to include impressionable kindergartners, where imagination is in the fertile process of digging into children’s brains.

Thanks to donations from foundations, corporations, the city of Chattanooga and individuals, the organization’s Imagine! Initiative has provided a systematic introduction and exposure to the arts for all Hamilton County students since 2010.

First-grade students attend a Youth Theatre production at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, second-graders see the Chattanooga Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” third-graders view the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera’s Young People’s Concert, and fourth-graders attend the Southern Lit Alliance’s Theatre Express! presentation.

ArtsBuild supplies not only tickets for each of the events for students and teachers but also ponies up for transportation costs to the events and supplies support materials that coordinate with state curriculum standards.

Although each of the above presentations is worthy, we’re delighted the kindergarten addition is a hands-on art project at the Creative Discovery Museum. Students will spend a half hour in the museum’s Culinary Corner using various techniques to knead and shape bread dough and then bake their creation. They’ll then spend another half hour in the art studio planning and creating a clay pot that will be fired and, in time, become a take-home treasure.

They’ll also visit the museum’s visual arts studio, where they can make prints, photograph themselves or draw, and the performing arts gallery, where they can test the sound of various musical instruments or hear what their recorded voice sounds like.

For many baby boomers who grew up in Chattanooga, visual arts and music classes in the then-Chattanooga Public Schools, and occasional field trips for special performances, were a given.

We can recall, for instance, a third-grade trip to Memorial Auditorium for a performance by the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. Students were warned to be on their best behavior and dire consequences promised if they were not. Under the baton of Dr. Richard Cormier, students were treated to selections such as “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg, “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the finale of the “William Tell” overture by Gioachino Rossini (“hey, it’s the ‘Lone Ranger’ theme”).

In-school arts classes offered an opportunity similar to what kindergartners will get to experience during the 2017-2018 school year. We remember creating small clay works of art, painting them and having them fired in a kiln and returned to us. We’re probably not the only one who still has a golden brown dachshund — or some other creature or creation — on a shelf at home.

Chattanooga city schools also had roving art teachers. We recall one of those, Fred Arnold, guiding students in creating and shaping puppets with papier maché. Every student should have such expressive, messy, imaginative experiences.

And if, like the fortunate second-graders today, we had seen a live presentation of ballet at a young age, we think now, we might have developed a better appreciation for it.

Through these opportunities that have been provided through the years by ArtsBuild, we feel sure that not just a few students who may have had little or no previous exposure to the arts have had their eyes opened to what is possible with performance art, live theater and music and have decided to make them a part of their future or maybe even their career.

During the 2016-2017 school year, only 11 Hamilton County elementary schools had full-time visual arts teachers, according to Rodney Van Valkenburg, director of grants and initiatives at ArtsBuild. All elementary schools had a music component, he said.

But during the year, 41 out of 42 eligible Hamilton County Department of Education schools — involving more than 11,500 students — participated in the Imagine! Initiative.

That, says Van Valkenburg, shows “the hunger for the arts in the schools.”

With the assistance of the organization, the Creative Discovery Museum and those who back them, the number of students now will grow during the 2017-2018 school year.

ArtsBuild officials say such an inclusive program for all public school students in grades 1-4 is one of the few of its kind in the country. We are fortunate to have generous donors for such a program and an arts organization to coordinate it. Until art and music is available in every school, it may be the only exposure to those fields for some students.

See this article in the e-Edition Here