Written in collaboration with Leora Watson, Western Washington University
Allied Arts of Whatcom County partners with Bellingham Public Schools to bring the experience of art to children in elementary schools throughout Bellingham. The Allied Arts Education Project (AAEP) was started in 2002 with a mission to expand quality arts learning opportunities for students in Whatcom County and create equal access to art education programs for students of all backgrounds. The program strives to create an accepting learning environment for all students to flourish; to reach a growing number of students with art education opportunities and meets state standards through workshops and projects.
There are three different types of art education programs available from AAEP. AAEP offers an all-school art project to create a public art piece for the school. Projects that students have done in the past include painting a mural together, making outdoor pavers and creating clay sculptures.
AAEP also offers three-hour art projects. Projects include pottery, painting, leather work, stone carving and much more.
The third program AAEP offers is an intensive arts education program for each fifth-grade class in Bellingham Public Schools in which they receive 12 hours of art education from a local teaching artist. Last year, fifth graders at Columbia Elementary School learned cultural folk tales and created puppets from the stories using paper mache, found objects, and cloth. They later performed the folk tales to younger students. Other projects have included printmaking, watercolor painting, rock carving, chalk drawing, and making mosaics.
“This was my first experience with Allied Arts and I was so impressed,” said Lowell Elementary School teacher Kate Manthey. “Students were able to grow their skills in the visual arts, but also in literacy and collaboration. We learned the history of puppetry, and used our 1:1 devices for research and character design. The ownership and engagement that the students had in their work was outstanding.”
Teachers have appreciated the variety of lessons and felt that students had fun while learning about themselves, the art, and how to work creatively with their mistakes. Allied Arts teaching artists ensure that students feel loved and accepted while they explore creating art in new mediums.
“We have been so fortunate to be able to partner with Allied Arts for many years,” said Stephanie Korn, director of teaching and learning.”Their teaching artists come into our schools and provide high quality instruction in the arts, and our students love the experience of creatively engaging in a variety of media. Our teachers receive professional development by learning how to incorporate arts instruction into their classrooms from the visiting artists as well.”
AAEP also hosts The Children’s Art Walk, a culminating, end of year event for the program. The event is a celebration of arts education in local Bellingham schools and over 60 downtown Bellingham businesses exhibit youth artwork in their storefront windows throughout the month of May. Over 10,000 people attend the event each year.
Last year, AAEP provided 127 art classes to students in Bellingham Public Schools, teaching 7,386 students from a total of 15 participating schools. Allied Arts of Whatcom County hopes to continue to grow these numbers and bring the experience of art to children throughout our county.
Learn more at https://www.alliedarts.org/education-project/.