SCENE column: Inventory lists, pen packing containers | Native leisure

While families are keen to get the final days of summer fun out of August, the calendars are becoming cluttered with notes for new student orientation, parents’ evenings, and the first day of class due to a major shift in activities. School supplies lists are online. Vertical displays of colorful backpacks are plentiful. Parents leave stores with bags of clothes and sneakers.

Earlier this month, adults from across Wyoming, armed with markers, brushes, large pieces of construction paper, mugs of acrylic paint, sketchbooks, and museum galleries from art exhibitions, worked with a skilled facilitator through a series of multi-sensory exercises and discussions. How appropriate to find this listing for a group of dedicated individuals representing art education associations, museum education programs, non-profit organizations specializing in the arts and humanities, community arts centers, and the Wyoming Department of Education, along with staff from the University of Wyoming Art Museum, which hosted the three-day convocation of the Round table on the formation of visual art.

For the past 18 months of being somewhat locked up, missing routines of daily living, working remotely, zooming in and confused from eighth grade, and math in fifth grade, parents are eager to get their kids back to school to have. Children enjoy being with their friends.

During three days of masking or social distancing, many in the group in Laramie expressed their relief at stepping out of domestic isolation and returning to face-to-face interaction. Amid the energy and enthusiasm, the group developed a new sense of moving towards a shared vision.

Soon, markers were flying over kraft paper, filling in examples of the successes and challenges of art education.

What works? What’s happening?

A silent ebb and flow of participants moved up to jot down comments and then back to look and reflect. An irregular cobweb of lines linked similar or related examples. The fields on the paper became smaller as the group tackled the task.

Discussions followed. Joint observation of a painting with a partner in the “What’s Off?” Exhibition. Removing challenges and creating an image of art education in the country brought clarity.

Further discussions. Categorizing solutions to challenges. Communicate. Associate. Coordinate. To learn. Create. Advocate.

Small sheets of paper with large bright spots helped the group prioritize feasibility, impact, effort, and passion for the proposed projects. A break in collaboration initially brought random overlapping layers of paint onto a large canvas that was laid out on the floor. Presto! A finished painting with an exciting conversation about the dynamic process.

At the end of three days in which different approaches to identifying and solving challenges for art education were experienced, each participant walked away with personal responsibility and partnership around a specific action plan with deadlines. Call it hard earned homework and much appreciated. Call it a toolbox of assignments to continue to support education in the arts as a cherished and important part of every K-12 child’s experience in the classroom and to be expanded by the community.

Not unlike the zippered pouch or pencil box full of school supplies that schoolchildren across the county will use to learn, grow, develop, and thrive, the 20 visual arts education attendees are prepared and moving forward.

I wish all young and old a successful school year.

Mary Jane Edwards is the managing director of the Jentel Foundation.

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