Festival of the Arts celebrates art in South Whidbey schools

Posted in Feature, Festivals, Visual Art

May 29, 2013

Never let it be said that the recession beat down South Whidbey Island’s fervor for teaching the arts to kids.

 is of  3rd grade student Laila Gmerek admiring her clay cat mask (on display at last year’s festival), that she made during one of her volunteer art docent’s classroom visits.

Third grader Laila Gmerek admires her clay cat mask (on display at last year’s festival), that she made during one of her volunteer art docent’s classroom visits. (Betsy Gmerek photos)

Thanks to some determined community member organizations and the South Whidbey School District, the Whidbey Festival of the Arts will showcase the fruits of an effort to keep arts in education on this island. The festival will take place in and around South Whidbey High School from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7 with a BBQ dinner available and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

The Festival of the Arts is sponsored by South Whidbey Elementary PTA Volunteer Art Docent program, the Whidbey Island Arts Council (WIAC) and the South Whidbey School District. Basically, the festival is a chance for the community to come out and see what the students are learning in the field of the arts and to celebrate and applaud the community that has come together to make that still possible.

Betsy Gmerek, who heads up the elementary school’s art docent program, works with organizers Frank Rose of WIAC and SWHS teacher Don Wodjenski among a team of other volunteers, to make it all happen. But they had lots of help from the young people and Gmerek said the festival this year is student-driven in many aspects, particularly in the performances this year.

High school student and musician Sophia Duccini worked with Wodjenski and Gmerek to arrange a performance line-up that combines independent student ensembles and soloists with students who are led by school and community arts programs including Island Strings. Island Dance, South Whidbey High School Choral Group and the South Whidbey Middle and High School Jazz Ensembles. Also, there will be a bevy of middle and high school students on-hand during the festival helping to keep things running smoothly.

In the high school’s Old Commons visitors will see an exhibit of visual artwork made by every Kindergarten through fifth grade student, thanks to the volunteer art docent program and general education teachers. No publically-funded arts specialists were engaged, so without those in the community gunning for arts in education, these programs would not exist.

For the Whidbey Island Arts Council’s part, five artists-in-residence this year coordinated with the SWEPTA program and this is what they were able to bring to the students:

  • Gmerek taught Debra Davies’ first-graders “Drawing from Nature Through the Seasons.”
  • Storyteller Jill Johnson engaged Leslie Woods’ second graders in readers’ theater with “Comparing and contrasting urban and rural communities through reading about postal service.”
  • Johnson also engaged Kathy Stanley’s third and fourth graders with “Understanding Washington’s First peoples, through talking circles, native games, and rituals.”
  • Caryn Ploof and Lauren Atkinson used multi-media to teach fifth-graders “Collaborative Design and Fabrication of the Seven Habit Flags.”
  • Teacher and musician Kimmer Morris and musician Dana Moffett engaged students with giant marimbas and African rhythm ensembles.

Here is what to expect at the 2013 Whidbey Festival of the Arts:

  • “Pay it Forward Bake Sale” raises money for fifth grade arts field trip. Also, espresso drinks will be served by Topolino Espresso, with proceeds to go to SWEPTA Volunteer Art Docent Program.
  • Arts and Crafts Fun for the Family: make origami lanterns, community collaborative weaving, hair ties, face-painting and more.
  • Teaching artists demonstrations in Old Commons on Friday with Carla Dawn Walsh (painting); Yvonne Palka (sumi-e); and Mary McLeod (calligraphy).
  • Studio Art Class demonstrations include Carley Schwoerer (painting); Nicole Jhanson (raku); Collette Grove (anime drawing); Aaron Curfman (graph); Meaghan Wright (painting).
  • New Commons and high school art studio space exhibits by South Whidbey middle school students; art by the students of South Whidbey Academy (K-12); art by South Whidbey High School students.
  • Festival Courtyard BBQ: Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Whidbey Westside with burgers and cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies, sodas and water for sale to the public.  Proceeds go to the Arts in Education program for the elementary, middle and high schools on South Whidbey.
  • Sponsor booths will be on hand by Artists of South Whidbey (generous sponsors for Artist-in-Residence program in 2012-1014), Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, Whidbey Island Community Education Center and Cary Jurriaans’ Whidbey Island Fine Arts Studio and Carol Way.

Festival Performance Schedule

Friday, June 7

  • Outside Stage

5 to 5:40 p.m. Dexter Lewis (Folk)

5:55 to 6:30 p.m. Heartgraves (Modern alternative)

  • Little Theater

6:30 p.m.  SWHS choral singers

Saturday, June 8  

  • Outside Stage

11 a.m. to 11:45          TBA

Noon to 12:45 p.m.     TBA

1 to 1:45 p.m.             HS Jazz Combo

2 to 2:45 p.m.            Sophia Duccini

3 to 3:45 p.m.            Bekah Zachritz

4 to 4:45 p.m.              TBA

  • Little Theater

11 a.m.                        Island Strings

12:15 p.m.                  Island Dance and Gymnastics

1:45 to 3:45 p.m.         TBA

(Pictured at top, Happy festival goers and best friends, Naomi Atwood and Audrey Gmerek, explore the festival fun and food, after admiring the art created by fellow students in 2012./Betsy Gmerek photo)


Patricia Duff is a freelance journalist, writer and the editor of this magazine. 

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