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Opening cultural doors in urban schools

Grant funds unique art experience for local children

In a typical classroom setting, it might often be difficult for students to use their imaginations or display creativity when doing regular lessons or taking tests. But when children are given a broader forum that encourages them to express themselves creatively, learning takes on a life of its own. In broad, colorful strokes no less. At a time when funding for arts in public schools has become nearly extinct, several professors at IU Northwest have come together to create an opportunity for some local children to see first hand how art can paint their life perspectives. Literally.

Dr. Shelia Marie Trzcinka, assistant professor in the school of education at Indiana University Northwest, received a $5,300 grant from the Center of Cultural Discovery and Learning to conduct a project that connects the visual arts with language arts and social studies. This project, in collaboration with the IU Northwest School of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Ernie Pyle Elementary School of Gary, allows students with and without disabilities from grades 3-6 to visit IU Northwest to receive first hand experiences with a professional artist. Interim Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program Andree Anderson, provided community collaborative support and assisted in professional development efforts with teachers. Dr. Shelley Fisher, principal of Ernie Pyle Elementary School, gave strong administrative support and parents volunteered.

Internationally known artist and IU Northwest faculty member Professor David Klamen, was interviewed by students and their teachers. Klamen’s art works are displayed in the IU Northwest Gallery for Contemporary Art and in national and international galleries. While Professor Klamen described his artistic conceptualization and painted his massive work that symbolized historic events, students asked him questions about his work and his training. After interviewing the artist, children had opportunities to create their own symbolic representations of history, with the help of Professor Klamen’s assistant, Renae Ricks-Miller. Upon returning to their classrooms, teachers guided students through discussions and writings that tied art to their daily lives and other content areas of the curriculum using the Indiana Academic Learning Standards.

Participating teachers were provided with professional development on the theory of multiple intelligences in diverse urban classrooms. Teachers demonstrated how they could incorporate multiple intelligences into their own classrooms to effect enhanced achievement. Since Ernie Pyle Elementary School had participated in numerous community service projects that have enhanced students awareness of various careers, this particular project will also help broaden students’ cultural experiences, give opportunities for students to engage in authentic hands-on-activities with art and artists, and provide a richer appreciation of the historical influences on art.

This grant also made it possible to provide art supplies for students and to purchase over 600 books to be given personally to participating students and to the school’s library. For more information contact Sheila Marie Trcinka at 219-980-6537 or or Andrée Anderson at 219-980-6889 or email



Media Contact:

Michelle Searer
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