Whitlock: Arts collaborations strengthen schools, benefit students

Freedom Plaza Retirement Community, located at 13373 Plaza del Rio Boulevard in Peoria, exhibits the Centennial High School Art Show with nearly 200 artworks created by 9th-12th grade students on display. Freedom Plazas gallery is free and open for viewing from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 6.[Submitted/Marla Levine]

By Connie Whitlock

Between 2014 and 2017, the Arizona Commission on the Arts developed and piloted the Strengthening Schools Through Arts Partnerships program in Arizona “D” and “F” labeled schools.

Connie Whitlock

Findings from the first two years of funded partnerships confirmed that across school type, grade level and arts discipline, arts programs connected to a school’s school improvement plan or capacity-building efforts had a significant impact on academic achievement, student engagement and student self-efficacy.

This is why WHAM continues to partner with schools to foster substantive community collaboration and strengthen learning in arts education and arts integration.

In the 2018-19 fiscal year, seven SSTAP grants were awarded, totaling $127,041 — increasing the investment in this program by more than 300% from last year.

Of the seven schools awarded a grant from the SSTAP Arizona program, only one high school was funded, Peoria Accelerated High School, which partnered with me, WHAM’s director and muralist, and PAHS art teacher Margaret Lieu to produce a clay-tile mural made by high school students.

The project builds on “Together We Grow,” a mural created by the students displaying a rooted tree, which was partially funded through the Arizona Commission on the Arts. This follow-on project creates clay birds representing the students flying into the world after leaving school.

The project was produced over eight months of instruction, during which PAHS students created 300 birds on the tiles. The project was completed in April and installed May 4-5 by me, Margaret Lieu, Gisele Norberg, Erin Sparks, Gabby and Jerad Norberg, Cole Glasgow, Connie Dominquez and Ryan Murphy.

WHAM’s mission is to provide innovative, multidisciplinary, art-inclusive programming, exhibits, and project to the diverse West Valley communities we serve. Between the gallery exhibits, festivals, and educational programming, WHAM impacts 50,000 people annually.

Come to our facilities at 16560 N. Dysart Road, Surprise to stroll through our gallery exhibit, visit the open artist’s studios, take one of our many art classes and get to know more about the arts in the West Valley.

Here are a few of our upcoming events:

• Neu Art Group Exhibit: May 1-31.

• The Art of Betty Shults Exhibit: June 1-29.

• WHAM Rocks – every first Friday of the month: June 7 painting “Flip Flops.”

• Poetry Slam – every other month: Friday, June 21.

• SoSco Duo – Live music concert: Friday, June 28.

WHAM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is funded through grants and generous individuals and sponsors. We appreciate any amount that you can give to help continue our many art programs to the West Valley. Your gifts are tax deductible and know how much you are helping provide art to many.

Editor’s Note: Connie Whitlock is WHAM Art Association executive director. Visit www.wham-art.org.

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