Innovative Art Teachers Draw Laurels

By Weathersbee, Tonyaa | The Florida Times Union, December 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Innovative Art Teachers Draw Laurels


Weathersbee, Tonyaa, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

Memphis Wood had a knack for seeing the beauty in things that would otherwise be cast off as by-products.

The longtime Jacksonville artist and educator, who died in Atlanta 15 years ago at age 87, taught art in Duval County from 1929 until 1962. There was little money for art then, so she found herself digging through trash heaps for teaching materials like bottle caps, corks, wires and scrap fabrics -- things that could be shaped into art and, in turn, shape her students' ideas about possibilities.

"We had 25 cents a term [per student] for art supplies," Wood told the Times-Union in 1985. "I used to walk down to a junkyard near the school and find discarded lumber. Some of it was cut in beautiful shapes. Oh the things we made out of that were lovely!"

When it comes to teaching art these days, educators are facing much of the challenge that Wood faced back in the day.

That's why the Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art has come up with something it hopes will inspire more area teachers to meet that challenge by finding their inner Memphis Wood. It is introducing its Memphis Wood Excellence in Teaching Award.

The $1,000 award, which will be offered through the museum's Memphis Wood Society, recognizes a teacher who finds innovative ways to weave visual arts into the curriculum. Classroom and art teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 in Baker, Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. …

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