Creating art with an attitude for learning
July 20, 2010
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Issaquah business brings art to life in struggling schools
Creating art on company time doesn’t get you into trouble at Issaquah-based Artitudes Design Inc. — in fact, it’s just the opposite.
Employees at Artitudes spend a lot of their time creating luxe graphics campaigns, but they also spend it making sparkly CD fish, clothespin-animal picture holders and bean mosaics in schools.
Why, you may ask? In a time of severe budget constraints for local and state governments, Andrea Heuston, Artitudes Design owner and creative principal, said it’s important to shell out to save art in public schools.
“Today, a lot of teachers are so fixated on tests and scores, and they are so fixated on trying to meet benchmarks, that art gets taken out to meet those other needs,” Heuston said. “Our job is to put it back in.”
For three years, her employees have been leaving their desks to bring art projects into struggling elementary and secondary school classrooms as part of the Artitudes in Action: Art Docent Campaign.
Since 2007, the company has donated $22,500 in supplies and paid employee volunteer hours to four schools in the Northshore, Sultan, Highline and Snoqualmie school districts.
It is a personal mission, she said, adding that she was influenced to embark on her career by art teachers and classes while she was in school.
“Not everyone is a math person and the teacher may not be an art person, so some children may not get to do art in their class,” docent and executive assistant Carrie Meredith said. The program “gives everyone the opportunity to learn something different and grow.”
Docents from Artitudes come prepared with everything for an art project; supplies, tools, lesson plans and a volunteer to give teachers a much-needed break, she said.
But more than something to fill time, art docents work with teachers to make projects relevant to what children are learning in class, whether it’s science, math, literature or history.
For instance, “the sixth-graders at Woodin Elementary were learning about Egyptian gods and Egyptian history. They hadn’t studied it before, so the teacher didn’t have a project,” Meredith said. “So, to help them, we had a guide that showed them how to write their name, and then we had them create an Egyptian god and come up with a symbol for it.”
While not every employee becomes a docent, everyone participates in the program, Heuston said.
Employees contribute by bringing supplies, said Lori Hudson, business operations manager and a docent.
Since many supplies are actually recyclable items, like egg and milk cartons, there is a lot of participation. What isn’t donated, like googly-eyes, pipe cleaners, paints and sparkles, the company spends its own money on.
While using recyclables saves money, it also shows children they can create art from nearly anything, Hudson said.
The company’s Monday meetings also start by making a craft, instead of giving reports, Meredith said, so docents get to try out new art projects before bringing them into classrooms.
But there’s the added benefit of boosting employee morale, too.
“Everyone loves the craft projects,” she said. “It’s something hands-on that we create together.”
High morale and the opportunity to make a difference is the reason, Heuston said, the company has earned numerous awards for being a great place to work.
While the docent program helped more than 400 children create art projects this year, Heuston said she would like to see that number grow.
To do that, the company is creating a nonprofit organization in the next few years to allow other businesses to donate supplies, funding or allow their employees to volunteer time, too.
“We have so many of our clients that want to be involved and who think art is important,” she said. Because “without art in schools, who will be our next generation of artists?”
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.
On the Web