Arts First Aid in Knott County

Throughout the month of April, students at Knott Central High School will be immersed in arts projects including blacksmithing, Chinese dance, African drumming, spoken word performance, and recording oral history. The Kentucky Arts Council (with support from the National Endowment for the Arts) has awarded an Arts First Aid grant to Knott Central High School, in collaboration with Hindman Settlement School and the Knott County Board of Education. This grant will bring four teaching artists to work with four teachers and their classes at Knott Central. These artists are part of the Kentucky Arts Council directory of teaching artists and all are established experts in their respective fields. Each artist will work with one teacher and four different classes each day for a five day residency. In addition, the grant offers the school an opportunity to align its arts curriculum with state standards and college and career readiness goals, assisted by consultant Judy Sizemore.

Joan Brannon will engage students in Stacy Coker’s band and chorus classes with African rhythms. Joan Brannon is a percussionist, instructor, drum circle facilitator and community arts organizer based in Louisville. Octavia Sexton will share her expertise in spoken word performance with Bria Stacy’s drama and speech classes. Octavia Sexton is a native of Rockcastle County who uses the art of storytelling to teach drama, writing, history, Poetry Out Loud, Appalachian culture, and more. Cheryl Pan will teach Chinese folk dances to students in Cathy Conley’s arts and humanities classes. Cheryl Pan is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and director who lives in Lexington, specializing in styles of dance from Asian cultures. Students in Ashlyn Swihart’s art classes will experience blacksmithing under the direction of Bob Montgomery. Based in Berea, Bob Montgomery has over forty years’ experience as a blacksmith, farrier, and teaching artist.

Teaching artists Judy Sizemore and Nicole Musgrave (Folk Arts Education VISTA at Hindman Settlement School) will also work with Cathy Conley’s classes to create an exhibit celebrating local oral history. The teaching artists will guide students through the process of recording interviews with community members here in Knott County about a keepsake or heirloom, and then utilize audio recordings and photos to create a public digital exhibit. This project is funded by an Arts Inclusion grant from VSA of Kentucky. Through the arts, VSA Kentucky provides opportunities for people with disabilities to be part of the life of their communities and make our world more accessible and enjoyable. The VSA Kentucky Arts Inclusion Program is made possible by a partnership with the Kentucky Dept. of Education, Division of Learning Services.

Those who would like to see the work that these artists create in collaboration with students at Knott Central High School can follow Hindman Settlement School on Facebook for frequent updates throughout the month of April. Final projects will be made available to the public. The Arts First Aid project and the Arts Inclusion project are the result of community members working together in the common belief that the arts are vital to education.