Over the last several years, more and more arts programs have been cut from school budgets. The Oklahoma State Department of Education data suggest Oklahoma schools ended 1,110 fine arts classes between 2014 and 2018. Rural and low-income schools have been hit especially hard, and Hawthorne Elementary School in Tulsa is no exception. Hawthorne does not have an art teacher on campus, and students have little to no art supplies in their classrooms. Teachers try to implement some art into their curriculum, but that can be difficult with large class sizes and state mandated subjects. Junior League of Tulsa (JLT) members are working to combat this problem.
A group of JLT members visit two Hawthorne Elementary 2nd grade classes bimonthly and give 30-minute art lessons. Members create the lessons, provide the materials, and guide the students through making the artwork.
Tara Proctor has been on the Hawthorne 2nd Grade Art Committee for a number of years and has seen great improvement in students as they progress through the program. “Art helps with problem solving skills, and they are missing those pieces in daily lessons. One student who wouldn’t finish a project or would get upset if it wasn’t perfect, learned to handle their emotions through art class and is able to participate and be excited for new lessons.”
In the fall of 2019, committee members provided each of the 45 students with a backpack of art supplies for them to use over Christmas break. The backpacks provided the students with plenty of supplies to continue working on art projects at home. Before the JLT art program, some students had never seen a bottle of glue. Now, students are exploring a whole new world of creativity with their JLT art teachers.