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Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015

Arts being brought back to community

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Founder of the Putnam County Coalition for Education and Creative Arts, Beth Benedix watches as second-graders Michael Lowrimore and Lincoln Zoleor create art projects during the first run of the program at Fillmore Elementary School on Tuesday.
In an effort to help transform the education system, the Putnam County Coalition for Education and Creative Arts organization has created a movement to partner with Putnam County schools in grades K-12.

The mission of the coalition is to partner with teachers in the Putnam County schools to provide a new approach to the curriculum by integrating arts into their weekly activities by utilizing the rich talents of DePauw faculty, staff, students and local artists.

"We want to create a true coalition of teachers and artists," said founder Beth Benedix. "We are looking to make schools fun, productive and happy."

Each week a new local artist will be brought in to provide workshops, which are designed by teachers and community artists with the specific grade levels needs and curriculum in mind.

"The coalition offers free programming that draws on visual arts, movement, music, theater and writing to nurture self-expression and encourage essential developmental skills for lifelong learning," explained Benedix.

An independent planning committee whose goal was to try to help reform the education system in the midst of increasing assessment pressures, large class sizes, reduced funding and diminished resources overall, started the program.

During the planning process Benedix came across the work of a man named Dave Eggers who established a nonprofit organization that served children ages 6 -- 18 years old. The organization provided outreach to local schools, after-school tutoring and writing workshops.

"His idea was to start a reading and tutoring center," explained Benedix. "When I found out about the organization it seemed like that was exactly the kind of thing we really needed to do."

Benedix began researching the organization and got in contact with the team. After flying out to a conference about the organization, ideas began flowing.

"The idea (for the coalition) came up from Lisa Cooper of South Putnam," said Benedix. "If we really wanted to access all the kids, the arts would be the best way to get everyone involved and reach the kids we felt we really needed to reach."

Planning took almost a year and a half. But, the group's first pilot program began Tuesday at Fillmore.

"I think it's such a good thing for the kids because they just have a natural curiosity and natural wonder," said Benedix. "We are trying to find a way to help bring joy back into the classroom for both the students and teachers."

The program was introduced to Fillmore Elementary students last week and it went into motion this week. All artists are local people who have a craft to share and are looking to be involved.

"They do have to go through background checks," explained Benedix. "We don't want to create a system where only certain people would qualify."

Fillmore is a concentrated test site to see what works and what does not work. After each activity students will not only give their feedback to the artist but to the founder as well about what they enjoyed and what they did not enjoy.

"Fillmore Principal Brad Hayes gave us the opportunity to do it there," said Benedix. "Kids are no longer having much opportunity to express themselves in a classroom. We want to boost morale of both students and teachers."

The organization is looking to introduce the program to all schools within the next school year, after assessing and tailoring the needs of each school.

"Fillmore decided they need to work on the science curriculum," explained Benedix. "Artists developing workshops are based on core standards of curriculum. They should tie things together of what students are learning in the classroom."

The organization also has plans to create a center in the Greencastle downtown area within the next few years. This center will be located at 302 E. Washington St. and will be a place for teachers to take their students on field trips as well as offering after school workshops during the week and weekends.

"On weekends it will become a place where there is just art," Benedix explained. "Kids can have a place to be doing arts. That's really important to us because there really is no place like that for kids to go."

The center is scheduled to open within the next three to five years. As of now, the organization is trying to perfect the program to further expand into all Putnam County school districts.

All are welcome to participate as an artist. For more information or if interested in becoming involved contact beth@castlearts.net.

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Great to see DePauw reaching out to the community although I'd suggest that there is probably more urgent needs in our school than more art education. Regardless, I applaud DePauw for making an effort and hope that other departments there will take the same initaitive. Another good area resource is the Rose Hulman Homework Hotline (877-ASK-ROSE) which offers science and math homework toutoring.

-- Posted by hometownboy on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 9:30 AM

In the comment "probably more urgent needs in our school than more art education", the previous commenter missed the point that the arts are being used to teach OTHER parts of the required curriculum. In the case of this pilot program, it appears to be science. So they are using activities in the arts to teach science. Cool idea.

-- Posted by gopher91 on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 10:04 AM


I understood that point. My point is that taking time away from traditional science instruction to do "art projects" as the picture caption suggests is not a good use of instructional time. You lear about science by actually studying science and doing experiments. Same thing goes for other topics such as literature and math. Please don't take my criticism as being anti-art, that is not the case. I just think that when my child is suppose to be learning about science the most effective way to do that is not to be doing art projects.

-- Posted by hometownboy on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 10:34 AM

Thanks so much to Lauren for writing this article and for coming to Fillmore to see the pilot project in action! As founder of the organization, I just wanted to make a quick correction. DePauw was not part of the creation or planning of the organization. While we are making use of the rich talent of DePauw faculty, staff and students (as well as of our vibrant community of local artists, musicians, storytellers, writers, performers and craftspeople), our organization is completely independent of DePauw. The Putnam County Youth Development Commission serves as our fiscal sponsor. I'd also like to stress that our primary goal is educational transformation; in the midst of increasing assessment pressures, increasing class sizes, reduced funding in the arts and diminished resources overall, we aim to inject a sense of discovery and joy back into the classroom for teachers and students. We also want to help provide students with the tools they need in all of their classes (and beyond): tools like critical thinking, problem-solving, using multiple skill sets, intellectual risk-taking and dealing with complexity. The town/gown issue is really quite secondary to this overall mission. For more information, please check out our website (www.castlearts.net), friend us on Facebook (Castle Arts), or email me (beth@castlearts.net). We would so love to have you involved!

-- Posted by castlearts on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 11:19 AM

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