Alyssa Wilson is the new Executive Director of Arkansas A + Schools. Her background in education, the arts and museums places her in a good position to lead the program.
Arkansas A + also has a new program director, Shelby Patterson, who joined the team this week. Patterson has extensive experience in non-profit work, program administration, and classroom experience from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Arkansas A + provides professional development, networking, and research data to its member schools. Emphasis is placed on integrating the arts into subjects such as literacy, math, science and history.
“A + is a comprehensive framework that was created to transform an entire school using eight essentials,” Wilson said. “These essentials affect every teacher, administrator and student and can trigger large-scale change for a district.”
The Windgate Foundation of Siloam Springs awarded the U of A’s College of Education and Health Professions a five-year grant to support the program in 2018.
Wilson and Patterson are excited to expand the arts – which encompass music, drama, dance, and visual arts like drawing or painting – into new schools. Each of these art forms can connect to classroom subjects and enhance learning, Wilson said.
“Consider using dance and movement to learn a mathematical concept or drama to demonstrate your understanding of a historical moment,” she explained. “These art forms can and have been shown in studies to transform the way students learn, and better yet, store that information. When you see it happening in a classroom, it can be truly magical.”
Wilson was most recently the museum director at the Peel Compton Foundation in Bentonville. She is also a specialist in the integration of the arts. His previous positions at the Arkansas Arts Academy – a school in the Arkansas A + Network – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Saint Louis Art Museum have emphasized the importance of the arts in the lives of students.
She discovered her transformative power as a child. “The arts, especially the visual arts, have always held a special place for me,” she said. “From an early age, I liked to create… sketches, paintings, sculptures. I remember being brought to life by art classes at school.
She remembered her first trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. “I will never forget this visit. The paintings almost spoke to me,” she said.
This experience led to a Fine Arts degree and a Masters in Museum Studies. “Art, visual and performance are part of who I am, and that’s part of why I applied for this role,” she said. “I believe it is extremely important to connect our young people to the arts. The arts can make them come alive – as in my case – and the arts and creativity can enhance their learning and propel them to greater things as they go along. they are growing in our ever-changing world. “
Patterson was assistant director of educational and community programs for The Orpheum Theater, a performing arts center in Memphis, Tennessee. She has worked with teachers, teacher artists and school administration to develop large-scale programs. She was also a college teacher. Most recently, Patterson was the development and database specialist for a non-profit organization. The research committee, which included five Arkansas A + fellows, were impressed with the breadth of their work and cutting-edge presentation. Patterson will have an office at the U of A Pulaski Technical College in Little Rock.
Wilson is in northwest Arkansas.
Wilson worked on one of her most rewarding projects as the Arts Integration Coordinator at Arkansas Arts Academy, a K-12 charter school in Rogers. She worked with the school’s third and fourth grade teachers to expand their classrooms into museum galleries through “My School, My Museum”. The students visited the museums four times per semester.
“They began to feel that the museum was part of their classroom experience and looked forward to these regular artistic integration projects where we linked the visual arts to their math, science, English language arts and of social studies, ”Wilson said.
She shared an example of connect a science lesson on the study of balanced and unbalanced forces – such as thrust, pull, gravity and friction – at the work of master artist Alexander Calder and his famous mobiles.
The A + team is excited to see the A + philosophy, which includes lessons like these, become part of the Arkansas schools framework. Wilson and Patterson are actively recruiting and inviting other schools to join Arkansas A + and begin the implementation process. Interested schools should contact the team to know more.