When I began working as the facilitator for the Studio to School project in Coos Bay, one of the first things I did was rework the budget that had been submitted in the grant proposal.  This is why I have an adjusted year one column within the budget that is now being submitted.  At the time, I focused much of the monetary and non-monetary resources on the monthly art lessons for every student at Sunset School, and that has remained the focus throughout this year.  I also set aside a lot of money for technology, because we wanted to add a digital art component to our curriculum.  That has not happened yet for several reasons.  This brings me to one of the things that we have learned about our resources and what it takes to be successful.

We learned early on that we can’t do everything all at once.  It is important to focus on one or two things and use the resources to do those things well.  We still plan to move forward with digital art.  For us, this will mean that we will start this summer by training our art instructors.  Soon we will be making some decisions about what we want to do next year with digital art.  We will purchase enough iPads and applications to train our art instructors this summer.  More hardware and software will be purchased in the fall for use in the classroom with students, and we will also offer instruction for classroom teachers.  We feel that if we had tried to implement this component last fall, it would have been too overwhelming.  Our artist-in-residence program has been successful.  But it is doubtful that we would have had the same success if we had taken on too much too soon.

We have learned a few other things about the resources necessary to implement out project.  One thing that may seem obvious, is that it is such a relief to know the money is there when we need it.  Instead of worrying about funding sources when supplies break or we need to pay teachers, we can provide what is needed to have a quality art program for our students.  This certainly helps provide continuity to the program.

Another thing that we learned is to be flexible.  By not spending that money on iPads and applications last fall, we did have some flexibility to offer some different art opportunities to our students throughout the year.  Providing these opportunities is a part of our grant proposal., but for this year we had only budgeted for field trips to the art museum.  It was great to be able to provide other opportunities for them.  Instead of being upset by postponing an exciting part of the curriculum, we were able to use some of the money in a way that was valuable for the kids.  And now we have the time and some monetary resources to move forward with digital art lessons.

This year the resources that made the most impact are our art instructors, volunteer assistants, and the quality art supplies and materials that were purchased for our art lessons.  We have learned that in order to bring a high quality series of art lessons to the students, the most important part is having qualified and caring art instructors and volunteer assistants.  Having the money to pay artists for their time and expertise is important.  The instructors feel valued and committed to the work.  We also have a wonderful group of volunteers.  We appreciate what they have done to help the program and students.  When all of these adults continue to return to the classroom, relationships with the students are developed.  A trust develops that supports the students not only with their artwork, but increases their confidence in themselves and what they feel they are capable of doing.  Monetary resources for quality supplies are also important.  Being able to provide quality materials for students, who have so little, has helped give them a sense of pride in themselves and their artwork.

At this time we have not spent all of our money.  We haven’t completed our program for this year, so we have some materials to buy and instructors to pay.  We have Justin Johnson coming to work with our 5th graders and their cigar box guitars at the end of the month.l  We also need to cover the auditorium rental for their concert on May 30th.  I will have another volunteer appreciation luncheon in June.  My salary and other overhead costs will need to be paid through August.  And, as I have already mentioned, we will be training our art instructors this summer, so we will need to cover those costs as well.

As we move towards a new year, we know more about our resources.  Both Sunset School and Coos Art Museum have contributed some in-kind resources that have decreased some of our costs this year.  We have a wonderful group of volunteers.  We also have a better idea of just how far this grant money can go in one year.  This can help us plan a budget, so that we can move forward with confidence and not spend time worrying if we will be able to accomplish what we want to do with the resources that we have.

Our budget has changed a bit for next year.  These changes reflect our desire to offer digital art lessons to our students, as well as professional development for our classroom teachers.  For the most part, the work our team has been doing will remain the same.  The most obvious change will be the planning necessary for the professional development we will offer for our art instructors and classroom teachers.  We will work together on that planning as soon as school is over for this year.

Thank you Oregon Community Foundation.  Sunset students and staff and the staff at Coos Art Museum have had a great year working together, and we are looking forward to another great year to come.

Post written by Kathy Sizemore