Photos by Gail Siegel
PULLMAN, Wash. — University professors usually teach college students, but across the state thousands of tweens and teens are benefiting from the expertise of Washington State University art faculty.
With support from the Boeing Company, WSU’s College of Liberal Arts has developed a unique collaboration with the 4-H Youth Development Program to bring arts education to Washington youth.
Arts for Children’s Enrichment, or the ACE project for short, has been so successful that the National Endowment for the Arts has recommended that CLA be funded for a two-year, $35,000 “Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth” grant, to expand the project from six Washington counties to eight and to support additional learning outcomes assessment. The grant period begins this fall.
The partnership between liberal arts and 4-H seeks to provide experiential arts learning opportunities for youth and was forged by CLA arts liaison and ACE project coordinator Gail Siegel.
“Several years ago, I was tasked with implementing a project to connect our arts faculty with youth in the state,” Siegel said. “Boeing, who was funding the project, was particularly interested in serving kids on the west side, where their employees live. I knew the key would be to find a way to reach those kids without having to shuttle our professors 300 miles and back.”
Siegel approached WSU Extension and was directed to state 4-H director Pat BoyEs, who enthusiastically supported the idea of collaboration. BoyEs facilitated connections with 4-H staff in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties and with the coordinator of the annual 4-H Teen Leadership Conference, Jan Klein.
“Because of 4-H’s statewide reach of 85,000 youth members and 10,000 trained adult volunteers, we have exceptional capacity to engage young people in the arts,” BoyEs said in her letter supporting the NEA grant proposal.
The project has grown to include Asotin and Klickitat counties, and now participation by Spokane and one additional county will be made possible through the NEA grant.
 “We built the program on a trainer-training model,” said Siegel. “WSU faculty are training youth to teach art to other youth.”
Youth and volunteer leaders from all 39 Washington counties attend the annual Teen Leadership Conference that takes place each June on the WSU Pullman campus.
Counties participating with ACE are provided scholarships to send two youths and an adult volunteer to the conference, where they attend arts workshops taught by WSU faculty.
The hands-on workshops “Bits and Pieces: Mosaics from Around the World” and “Ink, Brush and Scroll: Japanese Calligraphy” will be offered at this year’s conference, which takes place June 26-28.
Pauline Sameshima, an assistant professor of teaching and learning in WSU’s College of Education and ACE’s curriculum and assessment coordinator, said, “Through these workshops, youth will have a better understanding of how the arts influence and reflect cultures/civilization, place and time and to consider how history shapes the present and future.
“Students also will have the opportunity to communicate and express their own contemporary ideas through their own mosaic making and Japanese scroll creations.”
After the conference, county 4-H offices are provided kits of art supplies, curriculum guides and everything else they need to produce their own youth-led workshops with local 4-H clubs and at after-school programs and countywide Super Saturday events.
Sameshima said, “The ACE project provides a unique experiential learning opportunity for 4-H youth with quality arts and culture curriculum, access to fine art supplies, and resources necessary to more deeply appreciate world histories, artistry and personal expression through the arts.”
An independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts advances artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities.
“NEA research shows that three out of four Americans participate in the arts,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman in announcing on May 17 the projects recommended for funding. “The diverse, innovative and exceptional projects funded in this round will ensure that Americans around the country continue to have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”
Paul Whitney, senior associate dean of CLA and principal investigator on the NEA grant, said, “This project is a wonderful example of the value of the College of Liberal Arts and Washington State University to the people of our state.
“Because of our ability to pull together a talented team of artists and educators across different departments and colleges, youth throughout Washington who participate in 4-H will have the chance to produce art and learn about other cultures using tools and techniques provided by truly great artists. I’m very grateful that the National Endowment for the Arts made an investment in the expansion of this outstanding partnership.”
Grant co-investigators include Siegel, Sameshima, Klein and Chris Bruce, director of the WSU Museum of Art.
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion in grants and extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector.
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