Adventures in the Arts
Art Factory Offers Arts Education for Children
From left to right: Julia Budenstein, Asia McGee, Maggie Makuch, Tia Harvey and Markayla Barnes rehearse for a summer stock production.
Photo By John Harpring
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As budgets are cut and belts are tightened, Cindy O’Brien believes there’s even more of a need for her organization. O’Brien is executive director of the Art Factory, an organization which has been providing arts education to those in the Augusta Area since 1994.
“So many people don’t have exposure to the arts,” says O’Brien. “It’s getting almost non-existent. South Carolina is (considering) cutting arts funding. It’s very sad right now for education in general. The arts are always the first to go.”
O’Brien finds that a paradox because she says art is an integral part of people’s everyday lives. “You wouldn’t drive a car without an industrial designer. Everything in our lives is touched by art—from the clothes we wear to the design of a cereal box to the sound systems in people’s cars,” she says.
Not only does it provide that aesthetic quality to life, but O’Brien points to studies which show the arts help children with their critical thinking and reasoning skills.
A Shift in Service Delivery
In its 17-year history, the Art Factory has had a mission to provide quality fine arts education. Over the years, there have been some changes and evolution to the delivery methods, but the core remains the same.
For many years, the Art Factory offered classes in the Harrisburg neighborhood in different locations on Crawford Avenue. When it had to relocate its offices to Johns Road, student numbers took a dip as many of the low-income families it had served in Harrisburg could not get transportation to the new site.
The Art Factory stopped offering classes in-house and developed outreach programs at area schools and by partnering with other organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Augusta and Thomson.
The Art Factory developed the Art @ School program for children in kindergarten through the 5th grade. Through it, children study a particular artist, the artist’s time period and the significance of the artist’s contributions.
Art @ School has highlighted the works of a wide variety of artists from Leonardo da Vinci to South Carolina contemporary artist Jonathan Green. Other artists featured include Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and George and Benny Andrews.
The Art @ School program focuses on a mix of disciplines including math, language arts and visual arts.
In the da Vinci lesson, children learn about some of da Vinci’s inventions and the creative process.
The Art @ School curriculum meets Georgia Performance Standard and the National Standards for Art Education. It culminates with an art exhibit at the school and at the Richmond County Board of Education main office.
The Art @ School program and other artist-in-residence programs have been implemented at several schools including T. Harry Garrett, National Hills, Lamar-Milledge, McBean, Copeland and Sue Reynolds Elementary Schools.
Forming New Partnerships
Another Art Factory partnership came through its Art on the Wall project with the Augusta Utilities Department and the water works building near Daniel Village. Students and professionals used their skills to beautify the four walls seen by commuters daily.
One group of Art on the Wall participants was comprised of juvenile first offenders. O’Brien said the teens did more than just paint the wall, which had a theme of water. “Some of them had no clue our water came from the Savannah River,” says O’Brien. “They said it came from the faucet. We were able to create a curriculum that included a history of Augusta and the role of the river in Augusta’s development.”
They also learned environmentally friendly topics of water conservation, learning how many gallons of water they waste by leaving the water running when brushing their teeth.
O’Brien says it was an awesome experience to watch them paint their portion of the mural. “We couldn’t get the paintbrushes out of their hands,” she says. “It gave them a sense of accomplishment and pride.”
O’Brien said there have been positive reports from the teens involved including one of them succeeding academically and enrolling in AP classes at his high school. She says she hopes to work with the Department of Juvenile Justice again in the future.