Published 12:18 am Friday, May 19, 2017

Very few small schools in Alabama enjoy the luxury of having an art program, but thanks to a state grant Pleasant Home students got to experience art in a small dose this year.

PHS English teacher Jennifer Withrow was awarded the grant, which she used to integrate sculpting, painting and sketching into teaching classic sotries like “Romeo and Juliet” to her 9-11th grade students.

The freshman class made sculptures representing different characters in “Romeo and Juliet,” while the sophomore class created sculptures based on the “Scarlet Letter,” and the juniors created sculptures of shoes based on various literary movements. All of Withrow’s students enjoyed learning how to sketch and paint, as well.

Withrow applied for the grant through the collaborating arts program from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, which provides funding for an artist work with a teacher to to integrate art into the content of a specific class. The artist also teaches and instructs the class with the teacher.

Withrow brought in Greenville visual artist Stacy Edwards to help her.

“She came in and helped me develop some content and projects,” Withrow said. “It’s been fantastic, over the last four weeks. Most of our students had never even had an art class before.”

According to Withrow, the PHS students loved the class and it helps to make learning fun.

“They were really receptive to her, and they actually already miss her,” she said. “I believe that art gives students an additional pathway to express things that they are learning about, and I think when they have the ability to work with content more deeply to create artwork, then they are understanding that content more.”

Withrow’s students shared her enthusiasm for art being added to classes.

“I loved it a lot,” junior Courtney Colman excitedly said. “I love doing creative stuff like that, so it made me really like learning more. My project was about the Harlem Renaissance literary movement and it really helped me learn more about it and enjoy it, too.”

Sophomore Brittany Willis echoed Colman’s feelings about the program.

“It was a learning experience for me and I really enjoyed it a lot,” Willis said. “The sculpting and painting was my favorite part and it helps you see a different side of learning and opens up your brain to new experiences.”

While the grant only provides for an artist to come in and join the class for four weeks at the end of the school year, Whithrow hopes to be able to expand art into her classroom year-round in the future because the students want it.

“This program is amazing and I already have plans and hope to do this next year so that I can provide what the students want,” Withrow said. “Given our size and situation, having solely an art class is only something we could hope for in the future, but I do hope to kind of move art across my class so that it’s not just four weeks at the end.”