Singer, songwriter and Whitesburg native Carla Gover has been performing for more than 25 years, but she’s also been sharing her variety of art forms with Kentucky students for just as long.
Gover is a member of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Teaching Artists Directory, a program that began more than a quarter century ago to provide teachers with a list of teaching artists they can use to bolster their existing arts curriculum or to integrate art into other areas of the curriculum. The directory is a roster of adjudicated Kentucky artists who produce high quality artistic work and have both the skills and competencies needed to collaborate with teachers and students in designing and implementing arts education programs. The directory serves as a resource for schools of all levels that may want to employ qualified teaching artists through the arts council’s Teaching Art Together or Arts First Aid grants.
Gover has completed many residencies through the arts council’s Teaching Art Together grant. Teaching Art Together allows artists and teachers to collaborate on the design and implementation of innovative one- to four-week residencies. The teaching artists demonstrate their particular artistic discipline to students, as well as discuss the techniques and historic background of that discipline. Participating teachers receive lesson ideas from the teaching artist in order to continue to incorporate the arts into the curriculum after the residency is completed.
The Kentucky Arts Council covers 60 percent of the resident artist’s fee, with the school covering the remaining 40 percent.
Gover, who majored in Appalachian studies and Latin American studies at the University of Kentucky, started out teaching many facets of Appalachian culture – such as music, dance and herbalism – when she began doing residencies.
“That was the stuff I grew up with,” she said.
In 2015, Gover earned a master’s degree in Spanish and world languages from the University of Kentucky, enhancing the work she already was doing.
“Getting my teaching certificate and adding the teaching of world languages into the work I was already doing expanded my practice of teaching,” Gover said. “Now, in addition to Appalachian traditional dance, music and storytelling, I have a world languages component to use.”
The first residency Gover conducted through the arts council was at Tyner Elementary School (Jackson County). Teaching Art Together grants are very specific to the teacher’s needs, she said, and Gover has been able to accommodate those needs during her many residencies at Tyner.
“They were working on Spanish one time. They wanted the arts, but they wanted Spanish reinforced in the arts too,” she said. “We did dancing and singing, and I taught almost the whole class speaking Spanish.”
Although some residencies integrate art into other parts of the curriculum, other residencies focus on the art itself. Gover said those are opportunities to talk about a possible future in the arts for students with an interest.
“I definitely use the opportunity not just to talk about the craft of what we’re doing, but to make them aware of the arts as a career path. I give them an age-appropriate idea of what that entails, including all the things I’ve had to learn that I never set out to do, like business management and website design.”
Second-grade teacher Robbie Tincher, who has taught at Tyner Elementary for 15 years, has received several Teaching Art Together grants from the arts council, including a few using Gover as a resident artist. Tincher said the residencies are a valuable component of the Tyner curriculum.
“We’re in a rural area, so there’s not a lot of opportunity for our students to have those experiences,” Tincher said. “I’ve attended some professional development trainings where I’ve seen other schools with a Spanish teacher, an art program, a music program. We don’t have those, but being able to have those arts council grants and bring those artists in, even for a week or two, still gives our students a portion of what other schools have.”
The lessons take root, Tincher said.
“The students love it. Carla came in speaking Spanish, so they really had to listen and pay attention to body language to pick up on what she was saying,” Tincher said. “That’s something different from the day-to-day curriculum.
“The students look forward to those residencies. They always ask when the artists are coming back,” Tincher added. “The lessons can be really hands-on, and the students enjoy that as well.”
“I think the residencies are a chance to help students be more engaged in their learning. It’s a chance to help students connect with the arts in an exciting way, but it’s also a professional development opportunity for the teacher,” Gover said. “Most teaching artists I know are happy to take that time to share ideas with a teacher. I always like to leave a teacher with follow-up activities they can do after my residency is over.”
Like all arts council arts education grants, Teaching Art Together is open to any teacher or group of teachers presently teaching in a Kentucky public or private school that supports preschool through 12th grade.
“We’re proud of our arts education grant programs, some of which we administer in partnership with our friends at the Kentucky Department of Education,” said Chris Cathers, arts council interim executive director. “Every grant we oversee, from the relatively simple ones like TranspARTation to the more involved grants like Showcasing the Arts or Arts First Aid, is designed to remove barriers to high-quality arts experiences.
“The Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law in 2015, identifies the arts as essential to a well-rounded education. We take that recognition very seriously through all our arts education grants and directories.”
For information on the arts council’s arts education grants, including Teaching Art Together, or for information on the Teaching Artists Directory, contact Jean St. John, arts education director, at email@example.com or (502) 892-3124.
Tom Musgrave is the Kentucky Arts Council’s communications director.