The fortunate among us recall a teacher from our grade school days who validated our artistic abilities. For some people, it was a creative writing teacher. For others, it was the art teacher. And for still others, it was a music teacher. Beyond our fond memories, research has proven that teaching fine and performing arts in the schools builds confidence in children, as well as leads to healthy brain development.
While many public schools have cut art programs, Whatcom County has the Allied Arts Education Project. According to Katy Tolles, Artist Services Coordinator with Allied Arts, the program began in 2002. Allied Arts currently has 16 artists-teachers on its roster which includes local painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, puppet masters and actors. In 2015-16, the program served 28 schools throughout Whatcom County. The program serves 8,000 local students per year.
I chose one artist, Jacquie Bresadola (sculptor) and shadowed her for four hours at Carl Cozier Elementary School. Bresadola teaches through the Allied Arts’ program and at Pace Atelier Art Studio (3815 Bakerview Spur Road, Bldg. #2). At the time of my visit, Bresadola with the help of parent volunteers and teachers assisted fourth and fifth graders with the intricacies of glazing ceramic tiles.
Surrounded by bottles of glazes resembling a rainbow, children swarmed around Bresadola as she created palettes for individuals and groups. Bresadola, who appeared in her element, treated each student with respect.
“I enjoy providing the openness for the kids to own their unique self-expression and to guide them to further their abilities individually. Of course, this is more applicable to the kids I see weekly at my studio then the kids I meet for a two to four hour art time at the different schools,” says Bresadola.
The mural project began with a design team of fourth and fifth graders. Then, Bresadola and the creators of the project (First Grade Teacher, Kelly Glynn, and Monica Savory, International Baccalaureate Coordinator) orchestrated the creation of 300 plus tiles for the ceramic mural. They encouraged all the teachers, staff, parents and children at Carl Cozier Elementary to contribute a completed tile.
The final stage of creation will occur at Bresadola’s studio. With the help of adult volunteers, Bresadola and her team will construct the mural by fitting together hundreds of tiles on a wooden framework. The mural’s destination is a main hallway at the elementary school where passersby will read the inscription, “Care of the Community of Each Other, the Earth with All Her Creatures, Great and Small Begins with Us.”
On the day I witnessed the creation of the mural, Bresadola had taken on another role, that of a child wrangler, especially with the fifth-grade boys. Bresadola exuded passion for teaching art by encouraging each student to explore their muse, however he or she arrived. Bresadola showed me the relief of a wolf created by a team of fifth-grade girls.
“I’m especially inspired to work with kids in the public schools because I can reach all kids no matter their economic situation and I delight in bringing art to kids,” says Bresadola.
Since she began teaching through the Allied Arts Education Project in 2008, she has inspired children throughout the community. “I have taught at most of the Bellingham schools including the following elementary schools; Roosevelt, Lowell, Parkview, Silver Beach, Northern Heights, Alderwood, Birchwood, Carl Cozier, Cordata, Geneva and Sunnyland,” says Bresadola.
Similar to other artists, Bresadola recalls teachers who encouraged her artistic exploration. “I had a wonderful art teacher during my fourth and sixth-grade years who was an amazing teacher and supportive person for my artist self. I also had a fabulous high school art teacher, Mr. Anderson, who was aware of how to nurture the artist in me,” recalls Bresadola.
Bresadola has found that her teaching talents have had far-reaching results. “I’ve had many kids over the decades that I’ve taught art to go on to study middle and high school art. And several have gone on to college and careers in art. These are kids that were involved with me at my art studio over several months or years,” says Bresadola.
She mentioned that the Education Project exposes diverse children to art, however, children wishing to polish their artistic talents benefit from private classes. The Allied Arts program fills a void but only gives children limited hours of art instruction.
By the end of my time with the fourth and fifth-graders, I admired Bresadola for her high energy level and enthusiasm. Rest assured that the children in Whatcom County benefit from hardworking artists who serve the schools in their communities. As a result, the children contribute beauty to our world.