Artist-in-residence Dolores Lowery has spent the last four weeks teaching Gulf and Franklin County students different school subjects through the creativity of art.
Teaching since 2009, the full-time, self-taught artist started with Project Impact in Apalachicola, an after-school arts program dedicated to enrichment services that compliment normal academic curriculum.
The Florida Department of Education, which is partnered with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, work together with an aim to improve, enhance and promote arts integrations in schools.
After filing an application for a residency, Lowery received positions working with the Bridges ESE students at the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School along with classes at the elementary and high schools in Franklin County.
Each program is eight weeks long with students creating artwork for an hour per session.
While in the classroom Lowery reinforces everyday subjects by utilizing art.
The Bridges program in Port St. Joe is made up of special needs students and thus required a different approach. Lowery taught fractions to the students by having them cut paper into smaller and smaller pieces and once the lesson was complete, students designed colorful fish from the pieces.
Throughout her career, Lowery has worked with many different kids and personalities including those who have special needs, ADHD or are gifted. Lowery herself has a handicapped son and brings years of expertise to the Bridges classroom.
“It’s all about the process of creating art, not the end product,” said Lowery. “It’s about getting kids to participate and providing challenges that they can succeed at.”
She noted that some children have confidence issues when it comes to artistic ability and the teacher does everything in her power to ensure a safe and non-judgmental environment for the students. She focuses on the self-expression side of art rather than “getting it right.”
“Some didn’t want to participate at first, but now they’re first in line when I come in the door,” she said.
Utilizing art in the classroom, Lowery feels she has brought some of the Bridges students out of their shells and celebrates even a few minutes of creativity from those with shorter attention spans.
Lowery mentioned that studies have shown that grade point averages traditionally increase when students have arts in their curriculum, whether it’s visual or performing arts. She feels that art promotes the valuable skills of critical thinking and problem solving.
For Lowery, the end goal of her workshops is for the students to “enjoy art” and be introduced to the many creative avenues that are available in life.
“Once they enjoy it, they’ll do it more often and the creative process will continue,” she said.
Outside the classroom Lowery works with acrylic paints. In addition to creating her own jewelry she also does encaustic paintings which utilize heated wax of different colors to create a finished product.
The artist will soon be opening the Seagrass Gallery in Mexico Beach. The shop will feature Lowery’s original art as well as feature other local artists.