Commission provides youth art program grant

Students show off their self portraits at the elementary school art exhibit where students and their families could celebrate their art. Below: Some of the students work.

The Tennessee Art Commission “Arts Build Communities” grant program has awarded funding to start a youth art program for first grade through sixth grade students in the Hamblen County school system.

The purpose of the program is to target diversity of youths with a quality art experience that teach specific artistic skills and personal growth.

The program will increase self-esteem, academic performance, and social skills of elementary and middle school students who have determined to be at risk.

“It helps them grow in academics because it gives them self-esteem,” Carol Rouse, art teacher at Morristown East High School, said. “The art is theirs and doesn’t belong to anyone else. Art is the greatest power where visual, music, choir, dancing, it motivates them and gives them power and self-esteem. If they have great self-esteem, they grow in academics and expression.”

Recently, Rouse and other volunteers held an elementary school art exhibit where students and their families could celebrate their art.

“Today was first, second and third graders art show and reception,” she said. “We had a gallery and displayed their art. We had around 80 people who attended between the students and family members.”

The principal, guidance counselor, or director of each elementary, middle school, and agency will select students based on individual needs and with an interest in participating in an eight week after school program at no cost at the Rose Center from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays.

The program will be broken up into two sessions: first through third grade and fourth through sixth grade.

Last year was a successful year with an increased attendance. This year the first session attendance was 52 students. They are anticipating even more students to attend the second session, which started Monday, April 10.

The success of the program is due to private and corporative donations, along with the Tennessee Arts Commission grant money, which funds the cost of supplies and visiting professional artists. To obtain the grant money, private or corporate sponsors must raise matching (1:1) funds. Other grants have also been awarded to help pay the matching money from the Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity and GFWC Ladies Reading Circle.

Rouse had a vision to be able to expose and share visual arts with Hamblen County elementary children due the lack of elementary visual art teachers due to budget cuts. With the support and endorsement from director of schools Dr. Dale Lynch, Rouse saw this opportunity happening through the Tennessee Art Commission’s grant “Art Building Communities.” This is the third year the program has been awarded the grant and the program keeps growing. Girls Inc. is also a partner in the program by providing transportation of students to the classes, which are held at the Rose Center. Rose Center director Drew Ogle has been of great support for the program in scheduling of classroom and hosting art shows.

Rouse believes children do express their selves, idea, and dreams through their artwork, which leads to building self-esteem and academic growth.

“When the world seems to say to a child, ‘you have nothing,’ participation in art gives a child a voice to reply ‘Look at what I have created, I am a part of something big,’” she said.