Charter School’s “Academics & The Arts” Program features area artists


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Academics & The Arts,” an annual spring semester celebration of the arts at The Learning Center! Charter School, features talent from the area’s best artists and hands-on demonstrations for the students. One of many opportunities for students included a week-long hands-on project with rustic artist Jo Kilmer. Kilmer’s business, SpiritTall.com features her artwork that includes bentwood furniture construction, using locally gathered willow. She also creates baskets, cabinets, jewelry and whimsical twig dragonfly pieces using native mountain laurel.

During her visit, sixth grade students and teacher Ryan Bender learned to create and build a large bent-wood garden trellis that will remain as a permanent installation in front of the school. Students learned about different types of trees and which ones make the best artwork. They learned how to process bark off some trees (in one whole piece!) and created baskets with them. Other students took the assignments further and are constructing other artworks out of wood, including crosses and a mobile. 


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I got such a kick out of watching the students work together to come up with the beautiful trellis in front of the school,” said Bender. “They spent two days putting the finishing touches on it and it stands proudly in front of the school. Talk about bragging rights for the sixth grade!”

Jo Kilmer was enthusiastic about sharing some of her self-taught knowledge about working with trees. Sixth graders were taught how some trees will bend to create arches, heart shapes and weaving material. They were taught how to square, drill, nail and rasp ends. Said Kilmer, “I believe the most interesting part of this program for the students was when I demonstrated how I harvested big sheets of bark while the sap is up. The fresh bark was then used to weave our baskets, tying and decorating. It is my hope that these kids will never look at a tree the same again.”

 “Our Academics & The Artsprograms are a valuable asset to our students,” said Bender, “because they are fully hands-on. Students are encouraged to think outside the box, make mistakes and get their hands dirty. These programs allow them to explore their creative side, which isn’t always utilized during a normal school day.”

Academics & The Arts, now in its 6th year at The Learning Center!, has a rich history of celebrating the arts and enriching academic offerings. The Jackie Ward Foundation helps enhance the Academics & The Arts program, promoting interaction between the school and the community. Additionally, a grassroots grant from Cherokee County Arts Council helped to make possible the school’s Artist in Residency program.A “March Madness” fundraiser drive will help the Foundation continue to provide the school and community with offerings like the recent visit to Murphy by best-selling author, Peter Jenkins and the Annual Spring Musical, “Law & Order: C-rhyme and Pun-ishment” held at the Henn Theater.

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