Sophia Hanson, works on some clay art during a TWAA home-school program. Courtesy photo by Kathy Bauer

Who would have guessed that observing at-risk kids respond to working on art projects would lead to a thriving Key Peninsula nonprofit organization? But that is exactly what happened. Today, Two Waters Arts Alliance (TWAA) celebrates a rich community of artists and supports arts education for young people and adults.

In 2001, Dennis Taylor noticed that hands-on art projects really engaged the at-risk youth he saw in his work. He reached out to two local artists, tapestry artist Margot Macdonald and photographer Kathy Bauer. One year later, TWAA was incorporated, joining artists and supporters of the arts.

“We have had many leaders and volunteers, all with a drive to keep the arts alive on the KP. Together we have provided art exhibits, performing arts, art walks, instruction in the arts for all ages and one of our goals is to always pay artists for their work,” Bauer said.

In our rural community, with limited resources, the schools have not had the capacity to offer arts experience for all students. TWAA has taken advantage of a talented pool of local and interested artists to bring arts experiences to the schools and, more recently, to home-schooled students.

Artists in Schools(AIS)brings art to the classroom with an impressive coordination of performance and visual art to enhance classroom curriculum. Tears of Joy, an Olympia-based literature and puppetry group from Olympia provides the performance, selecting a new theme each year. This year it is medieval dragon folklore. Teachers then opt in to have local professional artists come to the classroom to provide hands-on projects that creatively blend the theme of the performance with their curriculum.

After School Arts(ASA)pays artists to teach after school classes and workshops. These offerings are less formal than the AIS classes and do not require the involvement of a classroom teacher. Classes are offered every Tuesday and Thursday at Key Peninsula Middle School.

The home school arts program, new this year, offers art classes to about 15 students between the ages of four and 13.

When the Red Barn received a grant to offer arts activities during their after-school program, they reached out to TWAA to teach. The result –– a series of weekly 90-minute classes that were a great success.

TWAA does more than offer education for school-aged students. Adult classes have been hugely popular. Patty Finnigan, who coordinates the classes, stated that there will be a card making class in March, with ones in clay, water soluble oils and alcohol inks are being scheduled.

Juried art shows, exhibits at the library and Blend Wine Shop showcase the work of our local artists. An open meeting on the first Tuesday of each month from 4 to 6 p.m. at Blend allows artists to meet and share ideas.

This summer TWAA sponsored its first Art Walk and it was so successful that they plan to repeat and perhaps even expand later this year.

All of this good work takes energy and money. Although the school program coordinators and artists are paid stipends for their time and materials, much of the work is accomplished by a dedicated group of volunteers. Fundraising has depended on public and private foundation grants, individual donations and membership. The Spring Fling, the every-other-year extravaganza held at the Key Peninsula Civic Center is their major money-raising event.

Bauer, who recently announced her decision to step down from the board, noted, “TWAA aims to maintain vibrant arts programs on the Key Peninsula and ensure arts education thrives in its schools. We have a critical and immediate need for organizers and volunteers.”Adria Hansen, who coordinates the home school program, agreed. “Some of the skills we could use are managerial, financial and teaching,” she added.

Want to get involved?

Board meeting: 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the VFW room in the KP Community Center.

Save the date: March 31, 6 to 8 p.m. at Blend. Share your ideas and vision for arts on the Key Peninsula: Engaging the Arts in Your Community. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres provided.

For information, visit twowaters.info

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