EDMOND — An ongoing effort by a private arts group means more than 2,000 Edmond elementary students will be exposed to the creativity and fun offered by art.
It's called Art in the Schools, and it's sponsored by the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond. Without the arts institute's participation, it's unlikely third- and fourth-graders at Ida Freeman, Orvis Riser, Northern Hills, Charles Haskell, Sunset, John Ross, Will Rogers and Angie Debo schools would have the instruction.
“Art in schools is a value for our schools involved in the FAI program as well as for the district,” said Lynn Rowley, executive director of elementary education for Edmond schools. “It provides our schools with art instruction that we would not be able to provide otherwise.”
Fine Arts Institute director Mitzi Hancuff said the program has been in place more than 10 years, after getting its start with a 1998 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. That grant was to review the cultural needs of the community, Hancuff said, and revealed a need for art for elementary students.
Today the program costs about $7,000 per school, and the Fine Arts Institute relies on help from individuals and businesses. Last month, Walmart donated $5,000.
Hancuff said the program been worthwhile.
“Test scores improved as many of the disciplines in the arts carried over to academics,” she said.
Teachers and students don't have to be sold on having art in the classroom. They treasure it.
Darcy Riner is an art instructor from the Fine Arts Institute who works with third- and fourth-graders at Orvis Risner Elementary. She knows about the value of art, after a love of the subject was instilled in her as a student in the Putnam City School District.
“Art involves the child using another part of the brain to think,” she said. “If this leads to a child having a lifelong love for art, then everyone wins.”
On a recent class day, she was teaching watercolors, and the students were drawing birch trees.
Destinie Roland, 8, called the instruction “fun” and said she might become an artist later in life.
Aaron Weber, 9, said he likes drawing funny faces. And what would he like to draw when he gets older?
“More funny faces,” he said.
Aidan Hamlin, 10, took pride in bringing his birch trees to life on paper.
“I'd like to be an architect like my grandfather, and you have to be good at drawing things,” he said.
Orvis Risner teacher Betsie Polk sees the good that art instruction does for her students.
“This is so important,” she said. “So many of the students need a creative outlet. The FAI funding is so awesome.”
Without the funding, Riner knows her day would be different.
“This is what makes it possible for me to be here, and I love coming to my job every day.”