Art Odyssey Arizona began as an idea developed over lunch on a spring day in 2012 by Geneva Haber and Leslie Lewis, two Phoenix Art Museum docents, and the current co-directors of Art Odyssey Arizona. We both had high regard for Art Masterpiece, an art enrichment school program that our children had benefitted from, but we became aware, through our work at the Phoenix Art Museum, that not every elementary school offered this program. Since Art Masterpiece programs rely on parent/community volunteers and are funded by parent associations, they are effectively absent from Title I (low-income) schools, where volunteer participation rates of parents, as well as resources, are lacking. Our idea was simply to engage volunteers to bring art appreciation and explorations to students that do not have access to such programs - thus Art Odyssey Arizona was born. We were incorporated on January 22, 2014 and received our 501(c)(3) status on November 23, 2015.
Study after study shows that art is a critical educational component for all children. However art programs are all too often cut from school programs. According to research done by the National Endowment of the Arts “At-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school ... tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement... The study reports these and other positive outcomes associated with high levels of arts exposure for youth of low socioeconomic status.” (https://www.arts.gov/news/2012/new-nea-research-report-shows-potential-benefits-arts-education-risk-youth)
Based on this and similar studies, Art Odyssey Arizona is committed to providing art educational experiences to underserved youth in Arizona. Trained adult volunteers visit K-6th grade students in their classrooms and present a 45 minute to one hour lesson using an art reproduction as the basis for learning. Volunteers facilitate close looking, student expression of ideas and hands-on opportunities. Observational, analytical, and critical reasoning skills are fostered in exploring art in this manner. All materials and supplies are provided. Currently, we have twelve volunteers that serve 19 classes (approximately 400 students) in low-income schools.
Art Odyssey Arizona has two sessions annually - a fall session and a spring session. For our fall session this year, we are in nine classes and we project being in ten classes during our 2017 spring session. We visit each classroom four times over the course of each session (generally once a month). Each of our four lesson packages have a different theme; for example for our first graders at Palomino Primary School this year, our theme is “Places and Spaces,” and the artwork reproductions we explore are of various places - a Mexican kitchen, a small country village in France, New York City, and a wild and colorful flower garden. During a typical lesson, the children will explore the artwork and will use their imaginations to “visit” the place in the artwork. Volunteers use our prepared lesson plans to guide the children through the art explorations. The lesson plans list questions to ask the children that encourage the students to engage in close looking at the artwork, to come up with ideas and opinions, and to defend their responses. Our program works in accordance with Arizona College and Career Ready Standards; specifically observational, critical reasoning, and public speaking standards are explicitly developed. Furthermore, art concepts and information are integrated into the lesson. After the exploration concludes (generally these take between 20-30 minutes for the younger students and up to 40 minutes with older students), the students create their own artwork that reinforces the lessons learned in the exploration. As can be imagined, this is the highlight of the experience for many of the students. They take such pride in creating their own masterworks to bring home and enjoy. Many of the students do not have art supplies at home, and in almost all of our schools, the children have little time for creative and imaginative activities, as the schools are considered underperforming, requiring extensive testing and test preparation during class time. When we first visit a classroom, the children are shy and a bit unsure, but after the first visit, we are always greeted with cheers and hugs.
What new functionality we are looking for
(1) A mobile friendly web presence that allows for:*
Colorful, welcoming home page of student artwork and volunteers in the classroom
Resources for Kids
Online Art Gallery with protected access - an opportunity for students and their caregivers, friends, and family members to see the students’ artwork on display
Fun interactive activities
Art activity ideas
Front-page access to:
About Us - Mission Statement, board and staff information
How to bring Art Odyssey to your school - program information and curriculum options
Resources for teachers - lesson plan extensions, additional activities, and art projects
How to volunteer
Donor pages - easy to use, secure donation system
Wish list page of in-kind donation options
Back-page, password protected access to:
Interactive calendar with volunteer schedule and sign-up capability
Lesson plans, art project plans, and supply lists to be used by volunteers in classrooms
Library of support materials such as research on artists, art activity ideas, and links to online art resources
Administrative materials such as school maps, background check requirements for schools, volunteer manual, and volunteer training materials
Supply and reimbursement request forms
(2) A fun “artsy” Logo
(3) Training for Art Odyssey Arizona staff to manage interactive technology
*Obviously, we would not be able to have all of the above information added onto a website in 24 hours, but we would love to have a website structure in place that would allow us to add more information, resources, and content over time.
How the new functionality will help
Our mission is to bring art enrichment to as many low-income students in Arizona as possible. At this time, there is far more of a demand for our services than we can provide, due to our limited number of trained volunteers, administrative constraints involved in managing the wonderful volunteers we do have, and funding limitations. This new functionality will allow us to increase volunteer numbers, dramatically boost efficiency in managing our volunteers, and help us with fundraising. Furthermore, the new functionality will allow us to provide art enrichment resources to teachers and to low-income children in Arizona, allowing all students across our state to benefit from Art Odyssey Arizona.
A new website will allow us to easily deliver training dates and information, training materials, and background check information and requirements to our new volunteers. Furthermore, the new site would provide an easy way in which potential volunteers would see what Art Odyssey Arizona has to offer for volunteers.
Having a central location for electronic storage of organizational resources, such as lesson plans, scheduling information, etc., will streamline our operations, allowing us to serve more students. We will be able to communicate more effectively with volunteers and anticipate our needs for growth. Volunteers will be empowered and feel greater ownership of their work, motivating them to continue serving students. Additionally, volunteers will be able to research artists and other relevant information, practice lesson plans, and ask questions to clarify uncertainties prior to visiting students. This will increase the quality of the lessons we are presenting.
As with most nonprofits, funds are always an issue for Art Odyssey Arizona. We have received community support through in-kind art supply donations, but have largely been self-funded to date. Expanding Art Odyssey to serve more children in schools and organizations serving low-income families will require added volunteer recruitment and training, additional supplies, and increased insurance and administrative costs. Having the ability to receive online donations will greatly increase our fundraising potential.
Finally, having a location for children and teachers to gain access to lesson plan extensions, art resource information, and fun games and activities would be invaluable to low-income children in Arizona who face so many obstacles and challenges each and every day.
How our organization will use the technology
The primary way in which this new technology will impact day to day operations for Art Odyssey Arizona is in volunteer management and recruitment. We will use the new website for our scheduling, as well as to provide necessary lesson plans and materials to our volunteers. The website will also make our communications with teachers much more efficient.
Who will use the technology
Staff, volunteers, and board members will all use our new functionality. Ideally, we will have a password protected back-page for use by our staff and volunteers. As explained above, our staff and volunteers will use this back-page to increase efficiency. This will dramatically decrease the time we spend on administrative tasks, which will make life easier for staff and volunteers alike, as well as allowing us to provide our services to more Arizona children. Furthermore, our board members can keep up with all that is going on with Art Odyssey Arizona. This will make our board meetings more efficient and productive.
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