By Sarah West
I’m sitting in a board room discussing the needs of students at elementary schools in our local community. The host of our meeting turns to me to say, “by the way, this endeavor is historic, as nothing like this has ever been made available for our students in this particular area.” I take a deep breath. For a moment, I’m sentimental. I gather my composure as I know there is a great work that must be done. In the days to follow I would be anxious, excited and deeply concerned in our efforts to make these opportunities the very best for elementary students in the Smiths Station area.
At the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, a center for cultural arts history, we have endeavored to find ways to make culturally enriching educational opportunities accessible to students at their schools.
Understanding the importance of exposure to the arts during childhood development has long been a cause close to our hearts, and with an art center deeply rooted in the core of our community, enabled us to take this pursuit seriously.
Since spring 2019, the gallery has worked closely in collaboration with local educators and state government leaders to develop ways to make cultural and fine arts education consistently available to area school students.
This fall, the gallery will debut the ART IN SCHOOLS programs, the first of which has been made possible through the office of Alabama State Rep. Debbie Wood. In recognition of the value and importance of arts in education, Wood presented West Smiths Station Elementary School with a grant funding ART IN SCHOOLS | Seasonal Art Classes for Pre-K to 5th Grade. Upon a presentation made by the representative for District 38, this program debuted for more than 700 students and faculty at WSSES on Sept. 23rd and 24th. Each season, students of WSSES will receive continued fine art education through classes hosted at their school. In the coming weeks, additional news regarding arts in education will follow.
Sarah West serves the Opelika Observer as a contributing columnist, with written works of Cultural Arts relevance and prose. She is a preservation and conservation advocate, activist and visual artist of American Illustration with a focus on regional narrative painting. She is the founder of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art, A Center for Cultural Arts, Smiths Station’s premier fine arts destination. She is the appointed official artist to the city of Smiths Station, a Lee County syndicated columnist and the director of her art center’s Cultural Arts Outreach Initiative, which partners with local schools to make the arts accessible to all. She also serves a chief curator to the City of Smiths Station, City Hall Art Galleries. She is a founding member of the Smiths Station Historic Commission. She is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Board- Cary Center, Auburn University College of Human Science. She is an elected member of the Society of Illustrators- NYC. She mentors art students of every age through weekly classes at her studio located in the heart of Smiths Station, Alabama. To learn more about her work and activism, visit www.thesarahwestgalleryoffineart.com.