Tempe, AZ,
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Academic Excellence Through Art

Some people call Shari Keith the Junk Lady. She collects all kinds of junk and then turns it into treasure. But you won’t see Shari on a reality TV episode because she’s not that kind of “Junk Lady”.

Shari inspires students to develop critical thinking skills through art. She is one of six Studio Artists, who provide art instruction to third through fifth grade students in the Tempe Elementary School District in AZ.

“When kids solve an artistic problem, they think about how to do something and then they try it out to see if it works. This is actually the scientific process”, says Shari.

It’s true, some people are born with artistic talent, but many more learn creativity by being in the process.

Young students are great examples of how easy it is to learn to be creative. Most don’t have a fear of art assignments, because they don’t know if “it’s the right way to do it”. They just jump right in, which develops the building blocks to critical thinking.

“There is a part of my brain that shines when I do art,” says Alex Rojas, student.

Studies show art in schools strengthen student achievement in all academic areas. The U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts followed academic achievement at public schools for 10 years. They found math, reading, science, communication and critical thinking skills increased after students received art instruction.

The Studio Artists Program provides intense three-to-four-hour art workshops for every third, fourth and fifth grade student in the Tempe Elementary School District.

Fortunately, this year, State Farm, the City of Tempe and the Tempe Elementary School District joined forces to provide arts programs in the district, helping all students learn through this successful art program that connects working artists with elementary students.

The art projects and encouragement are doing more than building confidence—they are helping to close the achievement gap.

Curry Elementary and Curry Cougar - George Heslop, Studio Artist. Photo by Amy Garza, TESD Photographer

Designing a Curry Cougar label with George Heslop, Studio Artist. Curry Elementary School. Photo by Amy Garza, TESD Photographer

Street Art Fonts taught by Such Styles, Studio Artist at Aguilar Elementary. Photo by Pat Burdette, TESD Fine Arts Coordinator.

Texture Wall at Frank Elementary. Taught by Sue Norton-Scott, Studio Artist and photographer.

*videographer credit: Tempe Elementary School District

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