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News Education Endowment provides for arts in schools

In memory of her late husband Jim, Barbara McRae (left) makes a donation to Bonnie Abbott and Will Barclift of The Bascom for the supplies needed for an afterschool art program at Macon Middle School. The project is in partnership with Macon County Schools and The Bascom in Highlands.MMS students take advantage of afterschool program.

The Bascom in Highlands has partnered with Macon County Schools to provide free art classes after school at Macon Middle School (MMS).

The program, which was made possible through an endowment fund set up by Franklin resident Barbara McRae in memory of her late husband Jim, is called Art Adventure, and is taught in sixweek sessions throughout the school year.

“Due to budget cuts in state funding and other financial pressures, art is no longer offered as part of the daily curriculum at Macon Middle School,” said Bonnie Abbott. “The Bascom has created outreach programs in partnership with local community groups surrounding Highlands to help make good art education programs accessible and affordable wherever possible.”

Abbott, who teaches the course at MMS works to make each session of the program different to keep students engaged. “Each session will offer different activities using different art media,” said Abbott. “In our first session the students created a graphic design using their names, learned a new drawing method and made and glazed a pinch pot sculpture from clay. In the next sessions we will explore additional drawing and design concepts, and feature painting, printmaking, collage and other sculptural media.”

During the first session of the art course, students worked with learning to manipulate pottery. A second course with new students will be offered in the spring. The course is offered free of charge to students.More than 35 students expressed an interest for the opportunity to take the course. “The first two sessions are fully enrolled with 15 and 14 students and most of these students will continue to be in the winter and spring sessions,” said Abbott. “We also anticipate that there will be other students who want to be involved later in the year.”

“Art education is as important to the brain as physical fitness is to the body,” said Will Barclift, Youth Outreach Coordinator for The Bascom. “At all ages, we can keep our minds in shape by including creative practices in our routines. In our adolescent years, art classes are venues for us to take ownership of our ideas, experiment, and build character. These classes benefit kids of all abilities. There are kids who will find much needed confidence if schools give them an outlet beyond science or language. On the other hand, there are kids who excel at science and language who will discover connections between art and other subjects.

According to Abbott, she is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of ensuring art programs remain an important part of public education. “This partnership between the Bascom and Macon County Schools seeks to enrich the lives of middle school students with an opportunity for greater self-expression through the visual arts and the engagement in the creative process,” said Abbott. “We are grateful for financial support from the Jim McRae Endowment and the North Carolina Community Foundation, as well. As the art teacher for this class, I get to see children doing something they love, but also being challenged to think and learn in new ways to bring an idea to life.”

McRae hopes to continue to grow the endowment and provide additional opportunities in the future.

“My husband was an artist and after his death in 2010, I established the Jim McRae Endowment for the Visual Arts in his memory,” said McRae. “Its aim is to support the arts in Macon County and possibly surrounding counties. I am still building the fund, which is under the umbrella of the Macon County Community Foundation, a local affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation. I was associated with the MCCF for several years when it first became established in Macon County, and was always impressed by how much can be accomplished, even with a relatively small amount of money. Last year, the fund awarded its first grant, to the Macon County Public Library, for a beautiful piece by Cherokee potter Joel Queen. I only had $500 last year, but was able to match it in my mother’s memory, and Joel was very generous. Then the Friends of the Library stepped in and paid for the display case, which was made by a local craftsman, Scott Danals. It was really thrilling the way the project came together.”

While The Bascom is providing the instructor for the program, McRae is covering the cost of the supplies.

Sarah Stamey and Samantha Mathis work on molding clay before constructing clay pots. The course has space for 15 children and each session features different art mediums for students.“What pleases me most about this, aside from the fact that the children will have art instruction, is the opportunity to partner with The Bascom and the schools. I’m so happy to see The Bascom reaching out into the community this way, and am glad to have a part in it,” said McRae. “My husband taught figure drawing at the Atlanta College of Art for a number of years, and also taught in the junior college. He enjoyed teaching kids. I think he’d be happy about this.”

The Bascom is working with other organizations in the community to bring art programs to the Franklin area. The Bascom first partnered with the Macon County Art Association in February 2013 to begin offering art classes for children at MCAA’s Uptown Gallery on Main Street in downtown Franklin. Classes are now offered on Saturday mornings and Wednesdays after school throughout the year.

The programs at the Uptown Gallery helped paved the way for a course at MMS.

“Parents who enrolled their children in the Bascom classes at the Uptown Gallery and community members also expressed the need for art education for Macon Middle School students and in the home school community,” said Abbott. “The Bascom’s partnerships in Franklin quickly expanded and now include MCAA Uptown Gallery, Macon Gems, and Macon County Schools.”

“Our goal is to ensure that all students at Macon Middle School have the opportunity to take top-notch after school enrichment in visual art for at least one semester out of the school year,” said Barclift. “We currently offer one free weekly class in fall and spring, but we are willing and eager to expand our programs if there is an increased demand from the student body. In our future programming we also intend to display MMS students’ artwork in The Bascom’s galleries and to have students’ families visit our campus.”

The Bascom extends an open invitation to Macon County Schools to plan field trips to its campus. “We are obliged to work with schools to design art curricula and will underwrite fuel expenses and instructional and materials costs for students to learn onsite,” said Barclift.

"By the year’s end, The Bascom will have held more than 100 new classes for Franklin youth and more than 200 for Highlands youth. The Bascom did not foresee Franklin families’ enthusiastic response to the art classes. However, their involvement has made 2013 a landmark year for The Bascom's community outreach program and we could not be happier about it. The Bascom continues to serve Macon schoolchildren through strategic partnerships with organizations like Macon County Art Association, Art League of Highlands, Literacy Council of Highlands, International Friendship Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and homeschool networks. We are grateful to the Jim McRae Endowment for the Visual Arts and our many supporters throughout the region for their generosity, without which these programs would not be possible," Barclift concluded.

For information about Bascom art classes for children at The Uptown Gallery and a free week long summer camp at the Bascom for Macon County children, contact teacher Bonnie Abbott, M.A. Art Education at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (828)743-0200.


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