Auburn alumna Whitney Reed has always appreciated the arts and wanted to incorporate art into her classroom at Auburn Junior High School. So to get her students away from textbooks and worksheets, she created Room Eleven.
It isn’t a physical space, but a conceptual one. It’s where art and education come together.
Room Eleven is an interdisciplinary arts education program that brings local artists into the classroom to make art relevant and meaningful to the students, and it strives to empower communities to invest in their children’s education and support the work of their local artists.
Reed says the 2010-2011 pilot year of the program was successful in achieving that goal.
“I’ve never had a group of students produce such good work as my students have this year,” said Reed, a ninth grade literature teacher at Auburn Junior High School. “They now look at authors and text differently just from thinking more outside of the box doing art with the artists that come in.”
The program, funded by Auburn University, is used in the classrooms doing lessons that are seamlessly integrated into the curriculum, so it is a supplement to what they would have already learned during the school year.
Reed works with the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Office of the Vice President for Outreach at Auburn University to find artists in the community eager to work with the students.
Some of the collaborative artists that worked with the students this year were Chantel Acevedo, Wendy Deschene, Karen Garrison and Russell Haight.
Acevedo, a writer, worked with the students to write poems and short stories. She had them turn personal memories into fictional pieces or work.
Deschene, an artist, has a collection called WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) that tours the world, and she incorporated that into her lesson with the students by having them bring in stuffed animals from home, ripping them apart and “Frankensteining” them back together.
“The different things they have been doing with the artists have helped them envision art in a radically different way,” Reed said.
Garrison and Haight, both musicians, have taken another aspect of art and encouraged the students to create musical instruments out of household items and then write musical compositions at the end of the lesson.
Those compositions will be the background music during an exhibit held at Auburn University’s Biggin Hall featuring the students’ work. The exhibit, called Innovation and Collaboration, is May 19.
“The kids are taking this event really seriously,” Reed said. “They realize how much of a big deal it is to have their artwork showcased for anyone to see, so they are trying their best to produce quality work. I know everyone will be impressed.”
As for next year, Reed says the program is expanding. Other schools have taken interest in Room Eleven, including some in Notasulga, Mobile and Birmingham.
“We want other communities to not take the arts for granted anymore and to realize how vital they are to their children’s education,” Reed said. “So there is plenty of room for everyone to get involved in Room Eleven!”
To learn more about Room Eleven, visit the website or email Whitney Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.