Organization profile: The Cape Cod & Islands Art Educators Association
In an effort to highlight the challenges facing today’s art educators, the group regularly communicates with state legislators. Lyons recalls art teachers teaching from a mobile cart rather than a dedicated classroom, and one teacher at Sandwich’s Henry T. Wing School who was responsible for providing art education to more than 800 students per week—all issues that Beacon Hill may be able to positively affect.
Dan Springer, chairman of the visual arts department at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, is credited with crafting the association’s original mission statement, which conveys the need for advocacy within the group, at the state level and also within individual school districts and towns. “The group became important in unexpected ways, like when teachers needed a letter written to a superintendent or a local newspaper in order to justify their position or program funding,” Springer says. “Other than like-minded parents to support them, there was no network of professionals to raise awareness until we became an organization.”
Each year, the art educators association acknowledges individuals from across the region that have made a positive impact on Cape and Islands art education by awarding them a VISI award. Past recipients include Dave Willard, director of community relations for Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank’s Charitable Foundation, and former State Senator Dan Wolf, the founder of Cape Air. The awards themselves are individually interpreted and crafted by student artists who present their creations to the recipients at the reception in March.
The association also awards annual scholarships to a handful of local high school seniors as it strives to foster the students, not only in the region’s classrooms, but as they take the next step forward in their pursuit of art studies.
Tom Coute, a Dennis-Yarmouth High School graduate and a sophomore at Rhode Island School of Design, is a recent recipient. Coute credits Springer’s knowledge of exactly what each college was looking for in an applicant’s portfolio. “Mr. Springer helped me determine exactly what to submit to each school,” Coute recalls. “Without that, I would have just submitted what I thought was best. As a result, I had a lot more control and flexibility in choosing where to study.”
Eddie Calle, another of Springer’s former students, is in his junior year at MassArt. “I wasn’t a very social kind of kid,” Calle says. “I would rather just get lost in my art. Mr. Springer recognized that quality in himself when he was younger, and really worked to connect with me. That allowed me to really explore my art.”
Lee Connolly-Weill, a retired Barnstable High teacher and a CCIAEA board member, was at least partly responsible for shaping two members of Cape Cod Life Publications’ creative team. Jennifer Dow, creative director for the company, and Meredith Schulman, a former graphic designer, both credit Weill with their choices to pursue a career in art.
“Ms. Weill taught me the ‘art’ of graphic design,” says Dow. “Introduction to that area of art immediately made me realize I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. She allowed me to explore and take chances outside of the standard curriculum; that taught me to think and problem solve for myself.”
A career in the arts can take many forms, and as in most professions, challenges arise along the way. For art teachers on the Cape and Islands, a solid organization will continue to support their passion as they continue to identify, foster and encourage the artists of tomorrow.
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