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Funds sought for art teachers

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A local nonprofit group will raise funds to help hire two art teachers for the Juneau elementary schools.

Regular classroom teachers now teach the Juneau School District's elementary-school visual-art curriculum.

Arts for Kids hopes to raise money to match part of a $175,000 grant the district is seeking from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The one-year grant would pay for two art specialists, a part-time program director and materials. It's too early to say whether the district could pick up the salaries in future years.

The district in recent years hasn't brought updated curriculum to the Juneau School Board for approval because it didn't have the funds for textbooks, said Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

The district is close to sending out for public comment its latest art curriculum, which is based on using specialists.

The idea - modeled on a 15-year program in the Fairbanks schools - is that as the specialists teach in classrooms, the regular teachers will learn more about how to teach art.

The specialists might visit each classroom about six times a year, said Nancy Lehnhart, a community member on the Arts for Kids board.

The specialists also would create bins of materials to go with each lesson. Regular classroom teachers could check out the bins from a central location and teach lessons on their own.

Lehnhart said the parents, teachers and others who formed Arts for Kids saw a lot of little efforts in the grade schools to provide art instruction. But the programs didn't necessarily continue year after year, and they didn't include every child.

"There were big holes, big groups of children at schools who were not being touched by it," she said.

Organizers would like to see Arts for Kids become a clearinghouse for arts programs.

The group's first goal is to hire visual-art specialists in the elementary schools. A long-term goal is to support a spectrum of the arts at all schools, Lehnhart said.

The district won't know until April whether it has received the grant. Meanwhile, Arts for Kids will drum up public awareness with a children's arts celebration on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School commons.

"It's time to bring ourselves into the forefront of the community's attention and awareness, and do some pretty significant fund raising," Lehnhart said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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