Fall Artists Residencies and the Value of Art in Public Schools

One of the things that I enjoy most about working for Hindman Settlement School is the community relationships formed around the work. Is “community” made up only of those who live in close proximity to one another? Or is it bigger, wider than that?

Sharing a place, neighbors certainly rely on each other for resources; sharing food, the support of children, the convalescence of those in bad health. But I also believe community can be more broadly defined; I think of my community as those with whom I share work and common goals.

Through Hindman Settlement School’s cultural heritage work we are able to engage in a vast regional and national network of artists who invigorate our imaginations and share their skills in a diversity of media. In this way we are building a community across time and place, one that nurtures the soul, as well as our hearts and minds.

Hindman students learning traditional Chinese dance

In October, the Settlement School welcomed six artists from around the Commonwealth to share their art practices with students in six Knott County elementary schools. Our featured artists were:

  • Cheryl Pan (Chinese Dance, Hindman Elementary)
  • Joan Brannon (African Drumming, Cordia Elementary)
  • AuCo Lai (Pottery, Carr Creek Elementary)
  • Carrie Neumayer (Murals, Jones Fork Elementary)
  • Bob Montgomery (Blacksmithing, Beaver Elementary)
  • Jessica Evans (Pottery, Emmalena Elementary)

I asked our Folk Arts Director Randy Wilson to share an account of the experience:

Every residency ended in a finished product shared with the community. Students at Hindman Elementary performed Chinese dances complete with costumes, fans, and a New Year’s dragon.  Beaver Elementary students made hooks out of their blacksmith shop. The pottery classes made ghoulish figures of pinch pots. The Cordia drummers performed pieces for the school and community. The Jones Fork students completed a pop art wall mural with abstract designs and superimposed tigers. 

Artists enjoyed being together during the week. They shared ideas and supported each other in their work. We had meals together, and I put together pictures for a presentation that was shared with area artists.

In the same week we had international students from Berea College visit the elementary schools for a day, students from Vietnam, Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Kenya. They prepared PowerPoint presentations and answered questions from students in four class periods at four different elementary schools. I interviewed the international students for a radio production at WMMT.

Pottery made by Emmalena students

I think the value of art in public school education cannot be overstated. It assists in early cognitive and motor development and helps students develop the tools they need to communicate ideas and emotions clearly. It also encourages problem solving and inventiveness, cultural awareness, and interpretive intelligence. Much research exists that correlates arts education with excellence in other subjects, and I am thankful to work for an institution that invests in the hope the arts offer. Since its beginning, Hindman Settlement School has held as a core value that the practice and appreciation of art is directly tied to a community’s high quality of life. In October, we were able to share these values with Knott County elementary school students. Now, we move onward. Into the next opportunity. And the next.

This VSA program is provided in 2017-2018 under a contract
with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, provides operating support to Hindman Settlement School with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.