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Art program in Little Rock schools helps kids deal with deeper emotions, teachers say

"I think that it’s something that each child should be able to experience. This is experiences that they will take with them for a lifetime."

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A program that brings art into schools and connects Bentonville to Little Rock. 

Crystal Bridges in the Classroom is on its fourth year and partners with 10 Little Rock schools.

This is its second year bringing this one-of-a-kind experience to Chicot Elementary.

Adrienne Hawkins, Chicot Elementary school's counselor, said the benefits of what the kids learn about art through this program goes well beyond the classroom's four walls. 

"I think that it’s something that each child should be able to experience. This is experiences that they will take with them for a lifetime," she said.

Experiences like the special kind of magic that is taking place in Mrs. Pritchett's fifth-grade class this week. 

"We believe that art reaches kids in a way that other things just don't," April Gentry-Sutterfield, Director of Arts Integration Services and a teaching artist said. 

She said the students spend a week learning how art is connected to something they are already studying.

"Maybe they don't connect to it in a book, but maybe when they are creating art all of a sudden they start to feel it much deeper. It becomes personal," Gentry-Sutterfield said. 

The first day is learning, disguised as games to introduce the piece of art and help the students focus. 

The rest of the week brings out the students' own creative impulses in hopes of bringing the lesson to life. 

Hawkins said art helps every type of learner with critical thinking and reading comprehension.

"Art is so universal. We have so many students that learn in a variety of ways," she said. 

Ismael Valdez was in the program last year and he said now he uses art as a way to express himself. 

"It could show feelings or emotions," he said. 

All of these new magical teachings are taken to Bentonville for an overnight field trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum.

This special opportunity that makes an everlasting impact on the students. 

"That field trip was not like your average field trip," Ismael said. 

As well as, the faculty.

"To see those students happy like that, that's something that I'll never forget in my career," Hawkins said. 

The magic taking place in Mrs. Pritchett's class this week is something these students can take with them well beyond the 5th grade.

Something Gentry-Sutterfield said there are things only the arts can provide. 

"They help you explore yourself so that you get to know your own voice, and if you know your own voice, you can not only articulate who you are now but who you want to become," she said. 

The program also includes a 3-hour professional development class for teachers to learn how to incorporate art in their classroom, as well as, three sets of 10 reproductions from the Crystal Bridges collection

Chicot Elementary hopes to continue this partnership in the future. 

As far as the future of the Crystal Bridges program goes, they hope they can add more Little Rock schools to their list of partners. 

Crystal Bridges in the Classroom is all made possible by local anonymous donors.


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