The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 12, 2012

Midd-West students work to retain artist-in-residence program

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— MIDDLEBURG — Budget cuts led to a lack of funding to sponsor an artist-in-residence at Midd-West High School this year, art teacher Tracey Mitchell said.

Midd-West faced a $1.8 million budget gap for the 2012-13 school year, which forced the district to close two elementary schools, consolidate two middle schools, cut programs and furlough seven teachers and 23 other staff members.

However, Mitchell and her students aren’t giving up just yet.

They are trying to raise the $800 for the artist-in-residence by selling holiday cards handcrafted by students in the advanced art class. Proceeds will go toward funding the artist-in-residence, run through the Perry County Council on the Arts.

They’ve already sold about $75 worth of cards, Mitchell said.

The artist-in-residence program allows students to interact with a professional artist in a unique and meaningful way.

“(Students) enjoy meeting an artist from outside the area,” she said. “They get a feel for life outside of Snyder County.”

All of Mitchell’s classes work on a project with the artist-in-residence for a two-week period, creating a piece of art that is displayed in the school. Last year, the team created a mosaic, and two years ago, the group made three low-relief sculptures, two of which are in the lobby.

“They get to work with different media,” Mitchell said.

For students who hope to pursue a career in art, the program can be an exciting look into the future.

“It was pretty cool (last year),” said Collete Saez, 17, a senior who plans to go to college and study either art or acting. “I don’t get to work on a lot of actual mosaics.”

“I really liked getting to work with an actual artist, developing skills I didn’t have,” said Leanna Derstein, 17.

For other students, the program allows them to develop other skills through artwork, Mitchell said. “Art is such a big part of everything,” she said. “It helps to develop critical thinking and creativity, but it’s one of the first things to get cut.”

After the holidays, Mitchell and her students are considering creating more general cards to raise the rest of the money needed for the program.

“I’m just trying to give them as many opportunities as I can,” Mitchell said.