THE GIFT OF ARROWMONT: A TEACHER’S LEGACY

 

CRAFT AS VEHICLE FOR COMMUNITY: THE FACES OF ARROWMONT

In this series we introduce you to some of the faces of Arrowmont: students, instructors, staff, work- study students, volunteers, and donors.  We explore the lasting value of the experiences and relationships that are created when individuals step out of their comfort zone and participate in the Arrowmont experience.

THE GIFT OF ARROWMONT: A TEACHER’S LEGACY

Until consolidation of schools in the 1970s, it was common for one art educator to serve an entire county.  This was the case in Lawrence County, Indiana where Mr. Robert Wilcox was “The Art Teacher,” spending more than 20 years of his career moving from school to school.  There is not much documented history to be found on the person or work of Mr. Robert Wilcox.  However, through talking with current art educators in the North Lawrence Community School district, I learned that he left a legacy that displays his character. During Mr. Wilcox’s summer vacations in the 1970s -1980s, he began taking workshops at Arrowmont as a way to recharge and be around other artists.  Mr. Wilcox believed so strongly in the Arrowmont Experience that at the time of his passing, he created a living endowment through the North Lawrence Community Schools Foundation that makes it possible for every art teacher in Bedford to take workshops at Arrowmont each summer.  The endowment covers the cost of tuition, housing, and travel for the instructor.

 “There is still stuff that I need to learn. There is still unexplored Territory.”
– Debbi Crane

Since the creation of the Robert Wilcox Fellowship in 2001, approximately 50 scholarships have been awarded to teachers from Bedford, Indiana to attend workshops at Arrowmont.  Debbi Crane and Cathy Bullington have benefited from the scholarships approximately 15 times each over the course of the last 17 years.  As K-12 art educators, attending workshops at Arrowmont enriches their teaching and allows them to bring a new energy back to their classroom.  They are able to demonstrate to their students the value of being a life-long learner.  Mrs. Crane described how taking workshops impacts her teaching,

Art educator, Debbi Crane working on a hat in Jan Wutkowski’s Millinery Workshop, June 2018

“I always like to tell kids that I still take classes. I still sit in front of a teacher. I still have things to learn and that even at my age and as long as I have been making art and teaching, there is still stuff that I need to learn. There is still unexplored territory.”

 “THAT IS WHY HE STIPULATED THAT HE WANTED THE ART TEACHERS TO COME TO ARROWMONT BECAUSE HE SO STRONGLY BELIEVED IN THE ARROWMONT EXPERIENCE”
– Cathy Bullington

Sometimes Mrs. Bullington teaches her students specific skills that she learns at Arrowmont. For example, she implemented the Japanese fabric dyeing technique of shibori into her curriculum one semester. This method attracted the interest of one student in particular who continues to use shibori in his own studio practice as an artist in Pittsburgh, PA.  Bullington and her student even visited artist and Arrowmont instructor Rowland Rickett’s farm in nearby Bloomington to harvest natural indigo dye for the process. By introducing K-12 students to art techniques that are outside of the realm of simple painting and drawing, Bullington reveals to her students that there are no limits in art-making and that risk-taking is a valuable component in developing their own creativity

A Finished Hat from Crane and Bullington’s workshop on Techniques in Modern Millinery

and confidence to try new things as they progress in life.  Wilcox’s endowment provides opportunities for art educators to participate in a supportive environment that allows them to take creative risks.  Teachers who take creative risks yield students who do the same.  Bullington said,

“Art education helps teach creativity. In the workplace of the future, people will need to be creative. Art is more than just learning how to use the technique for something, but at some point what do you do with all of that knowledge, you have to be creative and I think that that drives the human experience. We need to create.”

While Mr. Wilcox, “The Art Teacher” of Bedford, Indiana is no longer with us, his legacy as an art educator continues.  Mr. Wilcox is still teaching educators and students today through his endowment.  It is Arrowmont’s mission to enrich people’s lives through art-making.  Before the Robert Wilcox Fellowship was created neither Crane nor Bullington knew Arrowmont existed. Now 17 years later, they have taken workshops in book-binding, textiles, printmaking, precious metals, hat-making and woodturning just to name a few, exposing their students to the limitless possibilities in the arts.  In the spirit of this season of giving, we invite you to consider the ways in which you may be able to share the Arrowmont Experience with others.  You too can join the ranks of individuals like Robert Wilcox who made it his legacy to continue educating others by giving the gift of Arrowmont for generations to come.

For more information on how you can give the gift of Arrowmont this season, visit our website at https://www.arrowmont.org/support/

Paige is a former Artist-in-Residence who works on staff as Administrative Supportive Coordinator in Institutional
Advancement 

ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTENNESEE GIFT-A-TAGEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation

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