Students and Teaching Artists Impacting Each Other

Today we’d like to introduce you to two dynamic individuals who make the Artist in Residency program a success. A Residency is one teaching artist visiting the same group of students for at least six weeks. This consistency builds trust and a level of comfort between the students and teaching artist. 

Meet Christy Shaffer, an ArtMix Teaching Artist, and Ami Anderson, the ROOTS Coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools (Reclaiming Our Opportunities to Succeed). Christy has been with the ArtMix Residency program since 2002. One of Christy’s regular residencies is the ROOTS program established eight years ago. “In this program we use art to help with IPS’s diagnostic program. When the student’s behaviors are exposed during the process of making an art project, this can be a key insight for all players working with that student,” explains Christy.

Ami has worked with the ArtMix residency program 17 of her 18 years with IPS. She first experienced ArtMix as a classroom teacher for students with emotional disabilities. “ArtMix was, from the start, a critical component of our programming to address and support the therapeutic needs of our students,” said Ami.  “A great many of the students who attend IPS have limited opportunities to explore the arts outside of their school day. ArtMix provides authentic, hands-on experiences facilitated by teaching artists in a way that is inviting, supportive and novel.”

When asked what it is about the Residency program that ignites her, Christy remarked, “What keeps me going back are the individuals that I get to work with by helping them learn how to express themselves, learn to create, gain self-confidence, talk about their art, talk about others’ art, and to see the smiles on the their faces. The students’ energy to create and to learn is a true highlight. I learn something new every day!”

We asked both Christy and Ami to share some of their personal highlights of working with the Residency program.

Ami: “ArtMix has provided a multitude of memories for our students, families and staff. Beautiful clay pieces, puppet shadow plays, drumming circles and slam poetry sessions are a few of my favorites.  Most importantly, ArtMix serves as a vehicle for building relationships among our students and staff. Collectively or side by side, students and adults create things together. This magic leads to deeper and more trusting relationships.” 

Christy:The most recent experience I had was with a returning student. In the ROOTS program one of the goals is to get the student back into the best classroom for him or her within an IPS school or other program. Sometimes students come back to the program after being at another school for a period of time. The student in my story had been gone for at least a year, possibly longer. He was in second grade then, and probably fourth grade now. He walked into the multi-purpose room with wide eyes. Lunch was in progress and I was cleaning up from the last art class. The teachers were all welcoming him back asking him questions about what he remembered from being there previously. I kept hearing him say ‘no, no,..’ Then, I saw him turn and look over at the art table where we were making a clay project that day. He pointed to the table and said with a huge smile, ‘I remember doing that and I made____!’ He proceeded to explain enthusiastically to his teachers what he had made and the colors he had chosen. Wonderful things are always happening in the moment of creating! We never know what impact we have on individuals and what their impact is on us. In the above story, I could see in his eyes the impact the art experience had on him. And, in that same moment I was reminded how art impacts everyone on an individual level.  It’s the beauty of this job! I am so grateful!”

This is the final story in our five-part series. If you missed the other stories you can find them here:

  1. A mother’s story on how ArtMix changed her sons’ lives
  2. One little girl found respite and healing through art
  3. A women takes comfort in the community of ArtMix classes
  4. One young man gains independence and sense of self

The impact ArtMix is able to make on lives of people with disabilities is because of our donors. We would not be able to provide inclusive arts programming without support from people like you. Please consider making a gift to ArtMix today!

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