Advocacy Articles

August 13, 2014 - 3:37pm PDT

Retired Art Teachers Return and Advocate for STEAM

MONMOUTH, IL — In the down economy and with schools facing overwhelming budget issues, districts are being forced to slash extracurricular programs.

Despite the benefit of being a creative outlet, art programs are generally some of the first to go when schools are forced to make budget cuts.

The Art Presenter Program has been going strong for the last 41 years, revolving entirely around the volunteer efforts of parents, retired teachers and others.

"The program is facilitated entirely by the Buchanan Center for Arts. It is designed to take artwork into classrooms throughout the area," said Susan Twomey, executive director of the Buchanan Center for the Arts. "We have reproductions of works of art spanning from pre-history to contemporary. The program covers many different movements and artists from across the world."

While the four decade-old program is meant to engage students from kindergarten through sixth grade at all schools within Warren County, it has more recently moved to the point it retains a presence mainly in United District 304 — particularly the north campus in Alexis.

"The program is a great thing for the parents and grandparents who volunteer. Because the program has been going on for so long, a lot of the volunteers are retired teachers. They really see the value in it." Twomey said. "It is critically important that we maintain this program and continue offering this opportunity to the kids. For a lot of kids, this is the only exposure to art they get with all the budget cuts."

The program goes beyond simply showing famous works of art to grade schoolers.

Volunteers develop projects specifically tailored to the ages of the children, encouraging them to gain a deeper, more insightful comprehension of the works on display.

"The Art Presenter Program is a great way to expose youth to a wide range of artistic styles and periods, as well as provide them with hands-on opportunities to try the art techniques they observed," said Cathy St. George, the new coordinator of the program. "Art education encourages children to think and express themselves creatively, and the skills and ideas learned through art education can often transfer over to other areas of school and life."

In order to prevent students from studying the same projects year after year, all works of art allotted to the program are categorized according to grade. Twomey hopes that even with all the budget cuts, schools will emphasize the teaching of STEAM, an acronym for science, technology, English, art and math over STEM, or science, technology, English and math.

Twomey said the program will hopefully soon be able to utilize more technological advances, such as the creation of a website able to access the program's projects through Smart Boards located at the schools.

"We are very excited about our new coordinator," Twomey said of St. George. "She is energetic and excited about art. It will be a great opportunity for us to reenergize and reinvigorate the program."

-- Daily Review-Atlas