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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Celebrating ArtPark in Wilson County



(Jane Wood with Mae)

Jane Wood, as she identified herself, telephoned me from Wilson to arrange visits to fourth grade classes while I was in town last April for a reading at the Wilson County Public Library. She mentioned that she'd been visiting middle school classes there for quite some time, reading poetry to the students and encouraging them to write their own poems and stories. How much she had been doing over the past several years became apparent as soon as I climbed in the car with her a few days later and we began to talk. Jane is a woman whose enthusiasm can't be tamped down. The day we spent together turned out to be brimful with talk, poetry, and even a visit to legendary whirligig artist (though I'd call him a "magician"!) Vollis Simpson, with whom she has been friends for years. Jane writes a regular column for the THE WILSON DAILY NEWS and she will soon have a book published with selections from these columns.




Our first stop that morning was the Wilson County Arts Council headquarters. When we opened the door into the spacious and imaginatively designed building, I didn't know what to expect. Jane had told me about her ArtPark project, a program she'd pioneered using the poems written in classrooms she had visited throughout the years. "Over here," she said, pointing to my right, as we entered through the side door. There in the corner was another world, a world of imagination, a child-sized niche where animals paraded along the window sill and poems bloomed from the centers of flowers.















Art Park is an original volunteer program offered to the 4th Grades of the public, private, parochial, and home schools of Wilson County on a rotating basis. The purpose of this 14 year old program is to encourage young students to develop their talents. Students are taught that nurturing the imagination is as important as rote learning. The core of the program is literary, but, as you can see from the photographs here, other arts find their way into the expressions of the young artists.


Presentation of ArtPark takes place in the classroom. The host school is visited once a week for 6 weeks, 30 minutes per session. Students are led into discussions that emphasize individuality and independent thinking. Their poetry appears in the column, ArtPark, in the Wilson Arts Council's newsletter, The Courier. And their work is displayed in areas designated ArtPark at the Wilson Arts Council, Public Library and the YMCA. The post to follow this one illustrates how ArtPark enlivens the childrens' book section of the Wilson County Public Library.













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We all "see" differently, as Jane believes, and therefore we should create according to our own special vision. ArtPark discusses history to show the background of and for artistic expression, whether with paints and brush or words. ArtPark uses classical music to prove that music can "paint" images with sound, just as poetry "paints" pictures with words. ArtPark offers the "Pet's Name Contest" each year to emphasize the importance of responsible pet ownership. The prize is $25 and is donated by local veterinarians.

Although Jane gives so much of her creative energy to her community, she herself is a poet, writing poetry when she finds the time and inspiration, so often from the natural world that she loves. I will close out this post with one of her poems. Stay tuned for the second installment of my visit to Wilson, including my visit to St. Therese's School and the Greenfield School, a drop-in to one of Jim Clark's classes at Barton College, and my reading that night at the Wilson County Public Library, where more of ArtPark's display of student work blossomed in the children's section.





DUSK


Sun squats on the horizon
A hush descends
Robins on the lawn
pose
wait

Something passes
swiftly, silently

Dark drops to earth
They begin – katydids, whip-‘or-will’
the whir of wings
Seeking security
lest it comes again
that something
that stills
preceding night

- Jane Wood





3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jane's poetm reminds me of an old novel I read some twenty years ago. It was "Dark Thirty" by Terry Kay down in Georgia. "Dark Thirty" was a grim account of murder in Georgia, but the title takes its meaning from that last thirty minutes of a summer night when darkness falls suddenly.

Often, when I am prowling the poetry blogs, I think of a significant prose equivalent of what the poet has said.
Gary Carden

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thanks, Gary. I know Jane will find this fascinating. I'm glad you are reading this blog.

Glenda said...

Gary, your comment reminds me of when I was a young girl, I loved that time between when the sun "squatted" over the tops of the pines in south Georgia and the time when darkness fell. I often walked down the road toward the sun until the last of the roundness disappeared and then I'd turn and make my way back home. I savored that time of day and I still do but now I sit on my deck and listen to the katydids' chorus in the surrounding woods.