Budget cuts threaten many public school arts programs. And that's not a good thing.
Art teaches many valuable life skills. Just ask Patty Wyman. She's the recent recipient of the 2011 Arts Alive! Arts Educator Award.
Art teaches critical thinking and problem solving skills, says Wyman, who teaches early childhood and primary school students at . "Children learn to be adaptable. They have to be creative thinkers," she said. Art teaches children how to plan and how to organize. It also teaches self evaluation.
"We really think that they develop thoughtful research skills," said Luann Williams, director of the primary school at Old Trail and Wyman's supervisor.
Wyman was one of the 13 award recipients the Akron Area Arts Alliance honored at its biennial Arts Alive! Awards celebration on Nov. 20 at the Stage Door of the University of Akron's EJ Thomas Hall. The awards are presented to those who demonstrate "outstanding achievement in dance, music, theatre and visual arts, as well as outstanding leadership and and generous support of our local and culture community," according to a statement from AAAA.
Wyman grew up in Akron and graduated from Firestone High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in fine arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For two years she did some traveling. While working as a waitress, she made a friend who worked with at-risk kids. He asked if she would teach an art class. She agreed, and the experience inspired her.
"I listened to my father after all and went back and got my teaching degree," Wyman said.
She earned her teaching credentials at Kent State University and then started her career as a substitute at Old Trail. Over her 30 years at the independent school located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, she went from part time to full time, and is now co-chair of its art department.
Collaboration is key for Wyman; Jeff Eason, who teaches middle school art; and Cathy Sapienza, who teaches middle school art and electives like weaving and felt making.
"They model for the children as they work as a team the way we hope the children will work in the future," Williams said.
Each spring they get together to pick one piece of art by each of the 600 students at Old Trail School for a chance to be a part of the school's permanent student art collection, which decorates its walls. The project was started in 1988. There are now more than 100 pieces of original works by Old Trail students
It was Eason and Sapienza who nominated Wyman for the Arts Alive! award.
"I was surprised. I really was. The other two people [Eason and Sapienza] are certainly worthy of this," Wyman said.