The Importance of Arts Education: Arrowmont’s Commitment to Youth Programs – Part 1

In response to Covid-19, Arrowmont will continue the important tradition of ArtReach and ArtReach on the Road youth programs this fall by providing a new, Virtual ArtReach Program to five elementary schools in Campbell County and ten Sevier County Schools, reaching over 1,100 2nd – 12th grade students.

Virtual ArtReach on the Road takes the form of individual art kits delivered to each school. Each kit contains all of the materials and unique equipment required for one of five virtual workshops: wet felting, embroidery, clay (air-dry), weaving, and watercolor & collage. Instruction is provided through a YouTube video that can be played inside the classroom and instructional handouts.

ArtReach and ArtReach on the Road impact children’s lives in immeasurable ways. After more than a quarter century of programs, Arrowmont now meets parents who were “ArtReach kids” 25 years ago and take pride in knowing their children will create their own ArtReach memories. To see a child learn a traditional craft through an immersive day of art education is to witness a transformative experience. Craft education enriches lives for kids and adults alike – building confidence, creating community, growing skills, deepening appreciation for the culture and traditions of Appalachia. This year more than ever the ArtReach programs bring incredible opportunities for young people whose education looks completely different from anything they’ve experienced before. For the first time, ArtReach and ArtReach on the Road students receive materials to keep and can continue making artwork after the class is complete.

In the following essay, Youth Education Program Manager, Kelly Hider speaks to the importance of arts education, and how Arrowmont is dedicated to its valuable youth programs.

The Importance of Arts Education: Arrowmont’s Commitment to Youth Programs

Kelly Hider, youth education program manager


“I got to be creative all day and it’s a good feeling.” – Ava, ArtReach on the Road student (Swain County, NC)

Research shows that exposure to arts and crafts education is more than learning to appreciate beauty — arts education has an impressive impact on students’ cognitive, social, and emotional development.  Through making art, children develop essential problem-solving and motor-skills, as well as creative and critical thinking skills. Anyone who has been involved in the arts – as an instructor, student, or both – can testify to the confidence building and sense of accomplishment one feels when creating something beautiful with their own hands. Art education can give a child confidence, pride, and a path for personal expression. An artist myself, my entire life and career has been shaped by the positive experiences I had as a child making art, and with art instruction.

“It made me feel happy and made me push myself until I got it right.” – Dreydon, ArtReach on the Road student (Graham County, NC)

At a very young age, children learn to communicate through creative and artistic expression. Several studies have revealed associations between arts education and the development of valuable social skills including helping, sharing, and empathizing with others. Based on recent studies done by The Brookings Institute with the students in forty-two K-12 public schools in Houston, participation in arts education experiences has been proven to empower students with a sense of purpose, reduce a student’s disciplinary infractions, increase compassion for others, and deepen interest in school overall.

Despite the overwhelming public belief that arts education is essential to a child’s development, the proportion of students receiving arts education has drastically declined in the last few decades. This trend is attributed to the expansion of standardized testing, leaving little time and even fewer resources for creative activities such as arts and culture.


Due to socio-economic issues including persistent poverty and the lack of support and public funding, arts and culture instruction is also disappearing from public schools in Central Appalachia at an alarming rate. Tennessee spends, on average, less than $2 per student annually on arts education – Kentucky, West Virginia, and high poverty counties in Virginia spend even less.

“It is very difficult if not impossible for me as an art teacher to fully engage my students in the creative process with the schedule and resources I have to work with. Bringing deserving students to Arrowmont for a day not only enhances my relationship with them but allows them the opportunity to engage and fully experience the creative process…I feel [ArtReach] balances out our curriculum by offering experiences we do not and would love to.” – Karen Byars, art teacher (Sevier County, TN)

Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts understands and values the immeasurable impact that arts and craft education has on children, and offers extensive youth programming to local and regional students as well as extending its programming to underserved communities throughout Central Appalachia.



On Arrowmont’s campus, a variety of Kids Community Classes are offered each spring, serving a range of ages and skill-levels. Arrowmont’s Holiday Classes and Family Days are an opportunity for families to learn traditional craft techniques through holiday-themed projects.

“… Experiences through the various Arrowmont youth programs has helped foster [my children’s] confidence in their creative thinking, given them a breadth of knowledge outside of what the public schools offer, and has offered them a creative outlet for self-expression. In a world that seems to put an emphasis on having the right answer, their art experiences have helped them understand that there is more than one “right” way to go about completing a task.” –Amy Evans, community member and Professor at Walters State Community College (Sevier County, TN)

Arrowmont’s Community Classes have a long-standing tradition in the Sevier County community. Each spring, local children of a variety of ages learn traditional craft techniques through community classes. Many of these students return to Arrowmont as adults to further their craft education, and enroll their children in community classes when they begin their own families. Area youth are able to receive in depth instruction over five weeks in areas such as painting, ceramics, paper making, sewing, woodworking, metals, and weaving. At the conclusion of children’s classes on the final Saturday, Arrowmont celebrates its students and instructors with a reception, studio walk-through, and slide show of highlights from the year’s program. Students and their parents look forward each year to Miss Patsy’s homemade cinnamon rolls, and admiring the handmade work with which the students have taken immense pride in creating.

Each year in December, Arrowmont offers a full day of art and craft workshops centered around holiday themes to those in the community. Prepared by Arrowmont’s kitchen staff, students enjoy a delicious lunch together in Arrowmont’s dining hall. Students enjoy making wood-turned rolling pins, unique metal ornaments, sewn table runners, decorating cookies, holiday cards, winter watercolors, and ceramic platters. Many families and children in the community make participating in these holiday events at Arrowmont an annual tradition.

“I whole heartedly believe that Arrowmont’s community programming is an essential part of what we do in trying to educate others in the arts. To see the joy on a student’s face, whether it be an adult or child, when they have that light bulb moment for the first time is worth all of the work to bring classes together. …we are connecting generations through craft, and ensuring that the art we know and love continues on.” – Rebecca Buglio, Arrowmont Staff Member, Program & Studios Manager

Look for The Importance of Arts Education: Arrowmont’s Commitment to Youth Programs – Part 2 next week, when Kelly shares reflections on Arrowmont’s distinguished youth programming, ArtReach and ArtReach on the Road.


Most classes welcome students at all levels however a few require experience or specific skills. Any information regarding required skills will be included in the class description. Those with more experience are welcome to join any class with the understanding that they will participate in class projects and use the materials and equipment provided within the format of the class.

Community Class workshop materials will be provided and that cost is included in the class fee.

Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-registered basis. Class size is limited – early registration is recommended. Registration is by phone at 865-436-5860, opening on September 28, 2020.

We want our community members to be with us and have the Arrowmont Experience this fall. In order to offer Community Classes this year, Arrowmont is implementing a number of health and safety guidelines to ensure that all students can enjoy their workshop experience. We are trying to keep everyone safe by following recommended safety best practices and all federal and county mandates regarding masks, social distancing, and shared spaces. If you have any questions, please contact us at 865-436-5860.

For full safety guidelines and Community Class descriptions including Family Day workshops and Holiday Classes, visit



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