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Local Art Partnership in National Spotlight
Group will share how program with different regional schools works

February 11th, 2016 by Jennifer Middleton - Texarkana Gazette

Front row (L-R) Gail Taylor, Jennifer Unger, Jennifer Richert
Back row (L-R) Brandy Wall, Brandy Burnett, Amy Roberts, Kendra Powers

Members of Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council's ArtsSmart program are traveling to Washington, D.C., next week to present the intricacies of their partnership at the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Conference.

Of the 100 partnership teams attending the annual event, Texarkana's is the largest—with seven members—and is the only one to represent three states and five school districts.

The ArtsSmart professional development program began in 2010, with districts aligning with the Kennedy Center in 2012 to become formal presenters of Partners in Education, which is designed to assist arts organizations in developing educational partnerships with local school systems.

"They seem to be amazed that we get along so well and get things accomplished, so the suggestion was made to us last summer that we do a presentation about how our partnership works," said Amy Roberts, who represents Liberty-Eylau Independent School District. "We are also going to talk about how to make it it work. Not just our partnership, but any partnership, as far as the commitment and the challenges."

Having a partnership comprise five school districts—Texarkana Independent School District, Texarkana, Ark., School District, Liberty-Eylau Independent School District, Pleasant Grove Independent School District and Haworth, Okla., School District—has not been an issue, members say.

"One of the things that surprisingly has not been a challenge is the fact that we are in so many different school districts, but also different states, which means we have different state standards," said Jennifer Richert of TASD. "And different requirements in terms of teachers and professional development and all of those things. Surprisingly that has not been a challenge for us to work around either."

Communication among members is key, said Jennifer Unger, TRAHC ArtsSmart artist consultant.

"We have plenty of challenges," she said. "Funding is always a challenge. Time is always a challenge. Fitting into everyone's schedules and calendars with five school districts. Those are all challenges."

At the conference, or workshop, members from each district will present what they've done to integrate arts education and how they coordinate working together.

Their partnership works because the team members are dedicated and tops in their craft, Unger said.

"It's because they're all brilliant, she said. "And they're extremely knowledgeable in their state standards as well as their district, what their district needs are. We've got the right people in the right seat on the bus."

While at the conference, the team hopes to gain new information on available funding and grants, and how to gather applicable data to prove the success of arts integration in the classrooms.

"We see every day what's happening and we know what's working," said Brandy Wall of Haworth School District. "But for other entities out there that we report to, who want to see the evidence, collecting data in a way that shows what's really happening is kind of a challenge, too."

Partners in Education is partially funded by participating school districts, United Way and Capital One.

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