Williams Alliance for Arts expands support for arts in schools

WEMS eighth grade students enjoy an art reception to celebrate the Identity Through Photography project sponsored by Williams Alliance for the Arts. photo/Amy Martin

WEMS eighth grade students enjoy an art reception to celebrate the Identity Through Photography project sponsored by Williams Alliance for the Arts. photo/Amy Martin

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Reading, writing and arithmetic aren't the only things students will be doing this fall as the art and music programs at Williams Unified School District (WUSD) continue to grow with the support of Williams Alliance for the Arts (WAFTA).

WAFTA is a group of local artists and art enthusiasts whose focus is supporting arts education and activities for children and adults in the Williams community. The group has plans to build upon many programs they began last year at the schools and introduce a few new ones.

"We evaluated and reviewed what we did last year and we've gotten lots of wonderful feedback," said WAFTA member Kris Williams.

WAFTA is a non-profit organization supported through grants, donations and local fundraisers. The group has received money from groups like the Greater Williams Community Fund, Coconino County Community Incentives, the WEMS Site Council and many individuals.

The arts group supported many arts activities at Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) during the 2015-2016 school year. The group brought several artists, photographers and filmmakers to the school and hosted programs such as the Identity through Photography Project and the WEMS Art Club.

"It's a wonderful group of people and the organization really enhances the mission of WUSD," said WUSD Superintendent Rick Honsinger. "WAFTA doesn't just hope the schools will take on that role alone, they roll up their sleeves and get to work by bringing their programs to the schools."

Williams said the Identity Through Photography Project was so well received by the students and faculty that the group plans to put it on again and build upon it.

"We will be adding a couple days to the class and give the students about two weeks additional time to use the cameras," Williams said.

The Identity Through Photography project is for eighth graders and shows them how to explore their own identities and think about how they fit within the community and world as they learn the basics of creative photography.

WAFTA brought two professional photographers, Amy Martin and Grazina Wade, to the school to teach the students about basic photography skills and techniques. The art group purchased 15 Nikon P530 cameras and a high quality printer for the school.

The student project culminated with a month-long show in April at The Gallery in Williams.

Williams said Martin and Wade plan to add a class on critiquing and have the students conduct their own critiques at the end of the instruction. She said the class will then choose the photos that will come to the gallery in Williams for exhibition.

"It will be putting a little more responsibility and power to the students," Williams said.

The instructors will also teach the students how to use photography and design software.

"We think that developing those technology skills are important skills they can use in any profession," Williams said.

Art students at the middle school and high school were given an opportunity to work with professional potter Joni Pevarnik last year and make several pottery items. WAFTA provided materials for the students to use for the projects. The group hopes to have Pevarnik visit the schools again this year.

Drama enthusiasts were given an opportunity to see a performance by the Phoenix theatre group Childsplay when WAFTA brought the group to Williams. The actors delivered a high octane, multi-media, music filled revue called Rock the Presidents. The performance spanned 223 years of the American presidency, from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Budding filmmakers were able to meet local filmmaker James Q. Martin and watch his film "Drawn" this spring. Williams said WAFTA plans to bring the filmmaker back to Williams this year and allow the students to view the movie during school hours.

"They can then have a question and answer session with the filmmaker. I think that is really inspiring and rewarding to actually talk to a person who is local," Williams said. "We're hoping that it opens the door a little bit to students to start thinking they could do something similar."

The art group also supported the music programs at WUSD by spending more than $4,000 on new instruments and equipment for the middle school and high school bands.

"We plan to do lots of music this year," Williams said. "We ordered 35 new music stands, a brand new saxophone and a set of boom whackers (tuned plastic tubes)."

"We're also buying sheet music for a Dixieland band," Williams said. "The kids want a Dixieland band."

WAFTA is sponsoring two after school programs at WUSD. An art club meets twice per week and a photography club meets once. The groups will use the new cameras and have different activities according to student interest.

The group has several art programs for community members outside the schools too. Old Trails True Value hosts children's art workshops every other month and the Williams Senior Center hosts adult art workshops.

Williams said the group is hosting an adult fundraiser called Painting in the Pines Aug. 21 from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Kicks on Route 66. The cost is $50 per person, which includes all acrylic materials with drinks and appetizers by Kicks. Bonnie Dent will instruct attendees in painting pine and aspen forests on acrylics. All skill levels are welcome to attend.

More information about WAFTA and its programs is available by calling Williams at (928) 310-6287.

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