Stepping Up for Arts
The Artisans at St. James help fund arts programming in Brunswick County Schools and scholarships for students pursuing art after high school.
“Gotta Have Art.” That is the title of the annual art show at Jessie Mae Monroe Elementary School under the leadership of their art teacher, Theresa Reiter. And it is also the rallying cry for the St. James Artisans’ nonprofit organization Stepping Up For Arts (SUFA).
SUFA sponsors several fundraisers every year to raise money for grants to support arts programs in all Brunswick County schools and scholarships to award to high school seniors who plan to continue their art in college. To date they have awarded more than $21,600 in scholarships and more than $9,000 in grants. The art teachers have used these donated funds to support projects that may not otherwise have been possible.
Reiter got her students intrigued with the unique style of Keith Haring, the famous New York pop art and subway culture artist. The students were asked to paint a picture mimicking Haring’s style and illustrating one of the school’s core values. This was not only an art lesson, but also a great way to reinforce the school’s goals of honesty, courage, kindness, respect and hard work. Reiter is grateful that SUFA made this project possible by giving her the money to buy the smooth plywood and acrylic paints her students needed. The results are hanging in the school’s main hall because Reiter and her students are convinced that “behavior can be altered through art.”
Natalie Doherty, art teacher at Supply Elementary, used her grant funds to purchase clay for what was ostensibly a pottery class but was really so much more than that. She used it as an opportunity to stretch the students’ ability to think critically, examine their initial work and then identify whatever changes they thought would enhance their piece the next time they formed it.
The students were required to document their thoughts in a journal first by drawing their original vessel and then writing the answers to some pretty profound questions, such as How are the ideas that you learned connected to what you already knew?; How did your learning then extend your thinking?; and finally, What do you still find challenging or puzzling? While questions like these may feel more like those in a college psychology class, the kids were up to the task and rewarded the teacher with some outstanding answers. And all because SUFA gave them enough money to buy a little clay!
Catherine (Cat) Thomas, music teacher at South Brunswick High, used her funds to help with the cost of costumes and props for last year’s production of The Wizard of Oz. And it was a large cast because it also included some elementary school kids as munchkins. “The SUFA funds helped make The Wizard of Oz even more magical and allowed us to spend more time working on choreography, blocking and characterization and less time on fundraising, which led to a more successful final product,” she says.
Heidi Whitford teaches her fourth grade art class in an outdoor garden classroom at Lincoln Elementary. The class created some lovely artwork but had no place to display it — until SUFA gave them money to buy the supplies to make a very large display case so they could hang their work on the outside the school building, where it is visible for all who walk by to enjoy.
Kathrine Weeks holds several positions at Brunswick County Early College High School. In addition to being program coordinator and manager of special events, she is the sponsor for the Art Club and the Music Club. And that is a good thing because many of her students are involved in multiple choirs, shows, dance groups, small ensembles, etc. According to Weeks, the SUFA funds benefited not only the Dance Ensemble but also the Show Choir. She used the money to purchase special shoes for the dancers. “Your funds helped make the dancers feel confident and safely equipped,” Weeks says.
Southport Elementary music teacher Amanda Paterson found a clever way to make learning to play the guitar much easier. She used her SUFA funds to purchase 20 capos for her fifth grade class’s guitars. A capo is a device that is placed across the guitar strings to change the key, so instead of having to change the position of your fingers, the guitarist simply clamps on the capo to play in the desired key.
As SUFA’s vice president of art appreciation and education, Nancy Adelis has championed both the scholarship and the grants programs for the past several years. Each year in the fall she sends information to the teachers and guidance counselors in all of the Brunswick County schools offering them the opportunity to apply for a grant. The grant applications are then reviewed by the grants committee, and the final selection is approved by the St. James artisans’ steering committee. The grants are awarded in December.
School budgets appropriate only $1 to $2 per student for art classes, so outside funding by organizations like SUFA is not only nice, but also necessary if we want our kids to have the benefits, both academic and nonacademic, of exposure to the exciting and inspiring world of art.
Can you help fund arts programming and scholarships for local students?
Private and public donations are an important part of SUFA’s fundraising efforts. Become a supporter of the program by purchasing a T-shirt at the St. James Gallery or make a donation. Stepping Up for Arts is a certified nonprofit, charitable organization and your contribution is tax deductible.
Make Checks Payable to: SUFA
The Artisans (SUFA)
2571 St. James Drive, Suite 102
Southport, NC 28461