“Nine years ago, we had just a sprinkling of art classes where students were maybe given an arts class for six weeks once a year,” Principal Mary Mason said. “Now, students every week, from about the end of September through June, they will receive a minimum of one arts class every week.”
Art popularity, and the commitment to the subject, have Keppel officials on the cusp of applying to become an arts magnet school, which would make the campus eligible for highly prized resources and staff development.
“[It’s] building the capacity so every teacher at Keppel sees themselves as an arts instructors, and arts are infused throughout the school day in every area of the curriculum,” Mason said. “That’s the goal, from having professionals come in, to empowering teachers in instruction.”
But the arts magnet grant is very much in its infancy and Mason said she wasn’t sure if Keppel could win, or if the federal government would meet its commitment to the arts imitative.
“There’s a lot that has to happen between just writing it and having the vision before actually having the grant money to make it happen,” she said. “I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up yet.”
Arts has endured the recession because the school foundation raises between $25,000 and $30,000 to fund the program.
Parents are the key ingredient for the arts bungalow, Zierhut said.
“This is all parent-driven and parent paid for,” she said.
Through art, students are understanding that persistence has rewards, Shelton said.
“It lengthens their horizon,” he said. “This gives them a place where they can feel empowered because if they are having trouble, you can say ‘Hey, you can do this,’ and their effort leads to results.”
The Keppel arts program is divided into three semesters.
Timing varies by grade, but all kindergartners through fifth-graders will have three of the visual arts, drama, dance or music programs.
By the end of the year, about 850 students will have worked in the arts bungalow, teachers said.
“It’s not about, ‘Maybe I’ll be a future artist,’” Zierhut said. “Art has its own curriculum, learning about colors and different techniques and terms. When we’re doing clay, you should see the vocab.”
That art can help with reading and writing wasn’t lost on students.
“Maybe it’s helpful with English,” fifth-grader Nora Casey said. “Creative writing and art fit together.”