Greetings from the West Central region! I hope this past summer you found time to nourish and recharge your creative soul. As I write this letter to you, I am putting stamps on postcards that my middle school artists designed the last week of school. This annual activity is one that I look forward to doing, surprising them with an artfully designed postcard wishing them a much deserved summer break.
In this column, I would like to share some art advocacy news from the coulee region in La Crosse:
We kicked off our first annual Arts Festival the second weekend of June. Area artist volunteers, in collaboration with the Pump House Regional Art Center, organized Artspire. Leading up to the Artspire Festival, I worked with a local group of artists and poets to create chalk murals all over our downtown at various sidewalks, business walls and parking lots. The "Arts Initiative" group placed art images and text celebrating the arts to make this event a success in our community. I was delighted and honored to have seven of my students volunteer their time and art talent in chalking over 10 murals for this event. On the eve of this arts festival, our newest art acquisition, a mural painted in the Tromp L’oeil style by muralist, John Pugh, was unveiled to the community, followed by a street dance celebration. Over 40 local artists had their works for sale for the festival. Live music, interactive art-making activities for kids and food all accompanied the event. We had an amazing art exhibit going on inside the Pump House from May 1st throughout June 28th. In response to the theme of "compassion," our K-12 students were invited to participate in creating their personal interpretation of what compassion meant to them. The Compassion Project Exhibit filled the Pump House walls with over 6,000 6"x6" canvas tiles. This exhibit will live on throughout the community, as there was much interest from businesses and local leaders that wanted to hang our artwork in their space when our show came down.
I recently collaborated with over 30 art, music, non-profit and Viterbo University education professors and administration cohorts to plan an "arts integration" initiative. This planning was very exciting. It is our hope that our pre-service art teachers will have a strong ongoing partnership with our local art department in the La Crosse school district and with non-profit organizations and provide them support once they are teaching in their own classrooms. We anxiously wait to see if we will be recipients for this funding. My head and heart is full from brainstorming the possibilities for art integration being a natural way for all educators to teach and not a process that a handful of teachers and students experience. Advocating what we do in the art studio and how we naturally connect the process of artmaking to all disciplines is turning heads. As we all know, the experiences we provide in our classrooms should be authentic art experiences and are essential to the joy of learning for our young.
Do share what exciting art collaborations and artmaking events are going on in your community. I am off to plan a sketch box bike drawing club. Keep creating, collaborating and dreaming!