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ARTISTS

Our artists-in-residence are talented, inspiring citizens of the world and we want to showcase them. Here you will be able to take a closer look into them, their philosophies, and their passion for art.

DAA Partnerships Spotlight:

Greenville Renaissance Scholars 

“Young people, especially young people who are going through a tough situation, need that outlet to be able to express themselves, to have somebody listen to them, to have someone affirm who they are and to value who they are. I think those are things that we are able to do through our partnership with DAA and the art programs that we have.”

Jon Delperdang , Executive Director of Greenville Renaissance Scholars

 

GREENVILLE - The value of art, as a tool for reflection, expression and connection, can not be overstated. Delta Arts Alliance advocates, without fail, every day for a greater appreciation of the arts and for the life-changing impact arts education can have in its work with the youth of the Mississippi Delta. Fervid partnerships help to strengthen and magnify that work, and today, in this e-issue of FROM the MIDDLE, Delta Arts Alliance highlights its partnership with Greenville Renaissance Scholars. Greenville Renaissance Scholars is a program that, as its mission states, seeks “to inspire, motivate and prepare students to succeed on a college track through academic enrichment, college planning, leadership training, arts programming and community experiences.” DAA supports this extraordinary, mission-driven work by connecting GRS with two Artists-in-Residence from the Delta Arts roster.

 

This year, Artists-in-Residence Chelsea Young and Mariah Hutchinson are each teaching two periods, daily in songwriting and visual arts, respectively. Through these classes students have delved into various themes, from community violence to personal identity, to allow them to reflect and shape their own voice and shed light on the experiences they’ve gone through. This is not the first year Delta Arts Alliance has brought arts programming to the Greenville Renaissance Scholars camp, but it is the first year DAA boasts the funding support of Straddlefork Foundation. "We are grateful to the Straddlefork Foundation and its long-standing commitment to Washington County," said DAA Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison. "The equation is pretty elementary ; the more funds on hand, the more in-service we provide across the Delta. This generous gift helped to cover costs associated with placing two artists in classrooms, equipping those classrooms and securing travel expenses."

 

This partnership is just another reason why Delta Arts Alliance seeks at every moment to connect , whether it be with organizations, with students, or with our community. The DAA mission to expand arts education and to develop artists-in-residence is only complete by working together with incredibly responsible and forward-thinking partners like Greenville Renaissance Scholars. Delperdang added at the conclusion of his most recent interview, “Art is truly is something that all kids should be able to experience and Delta Arts Alliance is helping us make that happen for these kids.”

Below, please check out a video showing DAA Artists-in-Residence at work in Greenville. (Video by Robertson Scholar Kyle Ryan

Rosedale Freedom Project 

Connections. Community. Confidence. 

 

Delta Arts Alliance is built on bridging the disconnect between the community and arts education. This summer, the Cleveland-based non-profit has reached hundreds of students through a wide variety of summer program, but it is through its partnerships that DAA is able to have its largest impact. Today, partner-site Rosedale Freedom Project is slated to herald its summer successes in a Showcase Celebration at 6pm inside the RFP homebase at 705 Front Street.

 

Delta Arts Alliance has been aligned with RFP since its inception in 2015. Under Executive Director Jeremiah Smith, the program has reached hundreds of students along their educational journey and pushed them in their growth and development. This year, Delta Arts expanded its offerings to include two new classes at the Rosdalesite. Students have challenged themselves and stepped outside of their comfort zone in Spoken Word/Poetry class, and a pilot program for violin instruction called "Strings."

 

In Spoken Word, Artist-in-Residence Leah Allen, pushes the students to discover the stories they need to share. Poetry has the power to unlock secrets that we keep hidden even from ourselves. Finding your own voice is critical in self-development and confidence building. It can help students realize their own potential. As Smith observes, students often “find an art that they love and use [it] as a home base from which they can engage with things they feel less comfortable with confidence.”

 

Art is the realization of how our creativity, self-reflection, and need to express ourselves can interact and inform. Students were able to experience this first hand as they performed their poems for the first time at Family Day at the Grammy museum. Although nervous, students bravely shared their own poems and experiences, appreciating for the first time how to craft their own voice and share it with their community.

 

Most stunning has been the success of the pilot Strings program. Beloved Artist-in-Residence Chelsea Young lends her musical genius again in the creation of a violin class. Young has demonstrated an eagerness and a passion for educating students and pushing them to try new things. She encourages a mindset that is focused on “creativity and positivity,” all the while challenging them to not just apply what they’ve learned to her classroom, but to their daily life. One student, Destinie Jackson, appreciates the chance she has to learn new instruments and create music in a way she has never had the opportunity to before. Arts block is one of her favorite classes.

 

"Spoken word and Strings are not just about learning how to write a poem or how to play the violin. It is about seeing how to translate their voice and passion into a new medium. This is critical as often in unlocking the power of education the biggest obstacle is yourself," adds Delta Arts Alliance Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison. "The mindset you have in approaching new issues and new problems ultimately can determine whether the outcome is positive or negative. By using arts as a way to discover themselves, they can realize their own potential and see themself in a new light."

 

Delta Arts Alliance firmly believes in the power of the arts and sharing it with the community. Partnering with the like-minded, impactful organization of Rosedale Freedom Project allows DAA to spread the passion to more kids in the Delta. As a student reflected, RFP “show lots of love and help people when help is needed and they treat each and every kid no matter what age they [are] respectfully.”

 

Smith adds the goal is to have them reach a state of “self-assuredness, that what [they] say matters, [their] voice matters.”

 

To learn more about Delta Arts Alliance's work in Rosedale, watch the extended interview package below.

 

Video by Kyle Ryan, Robertson Scholar Summer Resident

Robertson Scholars Leadership Program 

Summer Programming 2018 Spotlight:

Kid's Spotlight:

Karagin, Rae, Mariane

Check out our Young Artists of the Week: Karagin, Rae, and Mariane!

Video by Nonnie Egbuna

Artist-in-Residence Spotlight

Chelsea Young
Lawson King

DAA Summer Arts Instructor Spotlight:

Lindsay Marter

Find out more about this week's summer arts instructor, Lindsay Marter!

Video created by Nonnie Egbuna.

DAA Summer Arts Instructor Snapshot:

Nicole Spinks

We caught up with summer arts instructor Nicole Spinks. Check out why she thinks art is so important, get a tip for incorporating arts projects at home, and more!

Video created by Nonnie Egbuna.

A Q&A WITH BRIAN SPECK

Q: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you teach? 

A: I’m born and raised in Greenville, moved to Cleveland after attending Delta State in 2006 where I met my wife who, actually oddly enough, wasn’t an art student, but was always hanging around the art department. I like to assume it was because of me.

 

But anyways, we met at Delta State, graduated, loved the town, and stayed here. Shortly after graduation, got a job at St. Joseph Catholic School midyear, believe it or not, which can be very intimidating for a teacher. I’ve been there since 2007. I’ve taught all sections of visual arts for high school students and I would love to take on junior high next year.  

Q: Why do you think art is important? 

A: Because it’s an outlet for self expression, particularly among young children, that they need to have fostered. They need to have experience with creative, constructive hands-on endeavors, to explore themselves better, to understand each other better. To understand that art is form of communication that is universal, one that some might even say is more universal than mathematics.

 

Simple fact is that you can look at a picture and understand. I like to tell my high school students that you could have ten different people of ten different languages looking at a picture, and all could potentially understand what they’re looking at.

Speck with artwork from one of his DAA classes.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Brennan Lewis)

The whole idea of self expression and having an opportunity to do that, particularly in a school setting, is vitally important. I don’t say that just because I’m a teacher, I say that because I believe that wholeheartedly. I think I took for granted in school the opportunities that I had as an artist and how necessary it was and what it potentially could lead to in life in terms of career. There is a lot of opportunity, just the idea of connection of people through art is probably the most important factor. It’s an opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes, it’s just something that needs to happen for these guys. An outlet for them to express themselves, to say who they are as an individual and what they need to say in this life.  

 

Q: So you view art as something that’s helpful in other aspects of life as well?  

A: I was just talking to a young lady today here who put one of her children in the camp. I explained to her that yeah, it’s an outlet for self realization, for the sheer joy in completing something that you actually appreciate. I think there are few things in life that really give that intrinsic excitement and joy. When you finish a work of art that you like, you just know it. Children need that opportunity to explore mediums and processes, color, line, shape, all the elements, all the principles.

 

All the things that they don’t even learn about in school that they’re applying and understanding how it can cross curriculums and what it means on a community level, even. What kind of benefits art can bring to a community in terms of group projects and collaboration, just helpful aspects to it. Landscaping, for example, is a type of art, and that’s something that can be helpful in terms of community -- having children out here getting flowers planted, and that’s something we seek to do and we see it in terms of art in school when we’re doing community service. 

 

Q: So why do you do what you do? 

 A: My honest response would be why wouldn’t I? 

 

My answer kind of boils down to the last question, how fulfilling it is. Art is a way to say something that maybe words won’t let you say sometimes. A picture’s worth more than a thousand words. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I took to art really early, I guess I just had a knack for it. My father was a musician, my brother was a musician, and I got the art.  

 

I had a teacher in high school once that made me realize the value of what I was doing. I may not have labeled it as art, but I had a chemistry notebook that was full of nothing but sketches and my chemistry teacher knew it. At the end of the semester he said, “you haven’t passed a single test, you haven’t turned in much homework, you didn’t make much of an attempt. You were pretty good in class, never talked, but you never got the information.” I didn’t care much about physics, I got some ridiculous grade, but he said, “Let me see your notebook.” And I turned in my notebook, and he kept it, returned it the next day. He said, “You’ve got some phenomenal work in this notebook, far beyond what I see down there in that art room.” And that just kind of woke me up, you know? I wasn’t ever big on taking art, I just drew all the time. He woke me up to that there’s some value in what I do here. He said, “You probably have a future in this. So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to grade the quality of your notebook based on your sketches.”

 

I came out of that class with a passing grade after doing no work. He passed me solely based on my skill at something I was good at. And that just made me kind of do a double take in life. It took a teacher that open minded that made me realize that what I was doing was worthwhile and could lead to something, and I think I probably owe that teacher partial credit for me becoming a teacher. Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. My passion is teaching my students what I’ve learned, and then having them teaching me in new directions. It’s as invigorating as creating a work of art. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: If people want to get their children more involved in art, do you have any recommendations for them? 

 A: Consider the summer programs, consider afterschool programs, foster it at home. When your child is bored, sitting in front of the TV, why not give them an art time? A time to just explore, learn different mediums. Keep it economical, but hey, we’re doing four days worth of activities here for $50, right, for 40 kids? So you’ve got stuff at home to work with. And my gosh, do we ever have a tool today. I mean, I don’t know what teachers did before the internet. So there’s your ideas right there. There are so many art teachers putting so much information on the internet. To really consider what you can do with your child at home beyond letting some art teacher or camp do that for you. And as a parent you might become involved and become considerate of the processes your child is undertaking. I do that every day as an art teacher.

 

How am I going to be able to do that? How am I going to be able to make those examples? Some are simple concepts, some are complex, but it’s what I wanted to do and I ended up (with practice) getting into it and realizing, “oh my gosh, I really like this.” It’s all fun and I really think parents have a responsibility to realize that their children are born with this potential. They’ve got these great tools called eyes to observe the world around them, to capture it and change it and create their own. And that’s a part of self exploration, that’s a part of connecting with others. Art gives you a way to see the world and art gives you a way to.. I think Degas said it best, “art isn’t what you see but what you make of it.”  

 

Q: Do you have any suggestions for things that folks can do locally related to art?  

A: Well, there’s the Mississippi Museum of Art, which is relatively close to us. It’s a two hour drive to Jackson. And Greenville has the Greenville Arts Council and a local exhibit. In terms of art exploration, start a big artist co-op around here. We’ve got the prime situation to do it. A college full of kids and adults alike interested in art.  

 

Q: Do you have any thoughts on why organizations like the Delta Arts Alliance are valuable for young people? 

A: Nonprofits like this are crucial in the sense that they can offer the means to grounds, the classroom beyond the classroom. And some classrooms don’t offer it, some schools don’t offer it. In my case, up until recently, we didn’t have art as a structured program until students reach the 9th grade. Coming from a school where I took art in elementary and junior high, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to put myself in the shoes of a child who had never been exposed to art. The only way that they would have been exposed to art was if the classroom teacher in elementary school offered it, which very few did.

 

When I began teaching, there was literally nothing up until 9th grade. Art involves so much skill, even as it involves talent. That can be developed; that can be honed. Practice is the only way to become better, just like a sport. You practice, get better, practice again. These organizations are crucial because there’s afterschool programs for tutoring, for academics, why shouldn’t art fit into any of it? It needs to be fostered before these kids grow up and think that some people are artists and some people aren’t. Anybody can explore themselves in creative ways and that’s what art seeks to do, give you another outlet to express yourself. Art needs to be pushed and furthered into communities like this through organizations that’ll allow that to happen.  

DAA summer art students proudly display the pieces they created in Speck's class.

A Q&A WITH ASHLEY BURTON, DAA'S 2016 ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Q: How does it feel to have been chosen as DAA’s first Artist of the Year?

A: I was so surprised at first. I didn't expect it. But it has been such a great honor to be given an award like this. I can't say enough how wonderful it is.

 

Q: How long have you been working with DAA?

A: I started working for the Delta Arts Alliance about three or four years ago.

 

Q: How did you get connected with DAA?

A: A friend of mine was actually scheduled to teach African drumming but suddenly wasn't able to do it. But they'd already offered the program and everyone was pumped about having the class. So I got in contact with Rori [Herbison, Executive Director of DAA] and pretty much just told her, 'Hey, I could totally do it for you.' She agreed and ever since then I've been doing all kinds of things for Delta Arts Alliance.

Burton conducting a Christmas recital at McEvans School in Shaw.

Q: How does it feel to have been chosen as DAA’s first Artist of the Year?

A: I was so surprised at first. I didn't expect it. But it has been such a great honor to be given an award like this. I can't say enough how wonderful it is.

 

Q: How long have you been working with DAA?

A: I started working for the Delta Arts Alliance about three or four years ago.

 

Q: How did you get connected with DAA?

A: A friend of mine was actually scheduled to teach African  drumming but suddenly wasn't able to do it. But they'd already offered the program and everyone was pumped about having the class. So I got in contact with Rori [Herbison, Executive Director of DAA] and pretty much just told her, 'Hey, I could totally do it for you.' She agreed and ever since then I've been doing all kinds of things for Delta Arts Alliance.

 

Q: What programs have you done with DAA?

A: I started out at the BB King Museum because we had a program there during the school year where. We did African drumming and I taught with Latoya Edwards who did African dance. Us two have been kind of a duo ever since.

 

Q: You’ve also recently begun working with the Rosedale Freedom Project? How did that come about and what is it like?

A: Rori called and told me about the program. She informed me that the Freedom Project needed a new form of art. They already had visual art and they wanted some kind of music. So we decided that African drumming would be a good class to implement.

 

The kids go from reading class to mine. We learn rhythms and the history of African drumming. We also sing and we do a little dancing to get the giggles out. They are very disciplined, very respectful, and so eager to learn and I'm really enjoying being a part of this program.

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How did you get into art, particularly drumming?

A: I started playing drums when I was in fifth grade. My mom was a worship team leader in church and the drummer there taught me. That was 17 years ago and my love for drumming hasn't stopped. 

 

I loved playing drums, so of course I joined the middle school band and went on to continue in high school. My senior year of high school is when I actually started teaching. I taught sixth grade percussion. My band director then, Andy Sanders, is the one who I think inspired me the most to become a teacher.

 

Q: What have you learned from being an art instructor at DAA?

A: I've learned a lot of patience. Learning how to interact with students and tune in to their mindset can be an adjustment sometimes, but it is worth it.

 

It's so easy for us to forget as adults that all of the hard stuff we know isn't really relevant to our students. Sometimes we just want to give them all this information at once. But I've really learned how to slow down and get on my students' level and it has helped me grow as a person.

 

Q: Why do you believe the arts are so important?

A: Art is so important to me because it really does help us in almost every possible way. I've done a lot of summer and after school programs and volunteered at places. And I've seen how giving kids art and the opportunity to express themselves in so many different ways has impacted their lives.

It raises their test scores. It keeps them engaged. You can see a difference in their discipline and how they interact with each other, parents and teachers, and the world after art is introduced to them.

 

Q: How do you feel about your opportunity to teach art to children?

A: I enjoy it so much. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy the kids. It's truly refreshing…There's no experience quite like it, and I'll always value my time teaching music.

Burton and partner-in-crime LaToya Edwards sat down to discuss their involvement in Pathways to Possibilites where they taught the arts to middle school students.