Sharing resources & building relationships, Annual 2017 Cape Cod ART | capecodlife.com

Photo courtesy of CCIAEA

CCIAEA has been supporting the region’s art teachers since 2003.

Most people can cite a teacher somewhere in their history who touched and influenced their lives, perhaps even had a hand in determining the course of navigation. In “non-traditional” careers such as those in the visual arts, theater and music, that type of encouragement can sometimes make all the difference in validating the tough choices encountered while pursuing a dream. On the Cape and Islands, an organization exists that is dedicated to empowering the region’s visual art educators with resources and support so they can deliver robust, empowering and diversified art curricula to their students. Linda McNeill-Kemp first conceived The Cape Cod & Islands Art Educators Association (CCIAEA) in 1999, when she worked as a Cape coordinator for School to Careers, an art internship program for Bay State high school students.

“A few years into the intern program, I realized that I would like to offer another element to the overall experience,” Kemp, a Brewster resident, recalls. “I wanted to offer professional development points for the teachers.” Since most of the art teachers are working and exhibiting artsits, Kemp presented a workshop for teachers who wanted to learn how to photograph their students’ art for portfolios. “I invited all of the teachers of the students from the art internship program, and I was amazed that they didn’t know one another.” To Kemp, emeritus member of the CCIAEA, that first workshop exposed a need for networking and the sharing of ideas. The following year, visits were made to the studios of the interns’ mentors, and field trips to schools and other artists’ studios have since become a regular part of the organization’s monthly meetings.

Founded in 2003, the art educators association cuts a wide swath across the region as it supports teachers in grades K-12, in public and private schools as well as the colleges on the Cape and Islands. According to Kemp, early meetings saw constrained, quiet interaction among the members who didn’t know each other. Today, the organization is an active, thriving group that has seen growth through the establishment of a board of directors and officers, an advisory committee, a scholarship program and the annual Visual Arts (VISI) Awards, which acknowledge community advocates who demonstrate an outstanding commitment of support for visual arts education on the Cape and Islands.

Budget cuts to art departments as well as school consolidations across the region have become today’s accepted norm. How best to deal with these challenges is a topic that has generated an exchange of ideas among association members as well as an overall strengthening of relationships among like-minded professionals. Lenore Lyons, founder of The Key Project, Cape Cod’s largest community art project, and president of the association’s board of directors, illustrates how important the professional connections have become for the group. “At a meeting a few years ago, we encouraged new art teachers to voice their concerns and share their experiences,” Lyons says. “One of the new teachers said how isolated he was. That is often true, particularly in the lower grades, that you are the only art teacher—and I think that is where there is so much value in this group.”