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  • Stacey Bowers

Building Bright Futures on a Budget


In the fall of 2016, Brad Wreyford, a teacher at Arkansas School for Math, Sciences and the Arts (ASMSA) in Hot Springs, took his students to visit Thea Foundation, where he learned about Thea’s Art Closet. Always looking to expand his lesson plans, Wreyford quickly got to work on his first Thea’s Art Closet project.

“Our art budget is adequate for what we do now, but it is spread thin when we attempt to grow,” Wreyford said. “Having funds to expand what we offer usually comes at the expense of what we do already. At ASMSA, we are striving to establish a foundation core curriculum much like a small liberal arts college. Included in this is an emphasis on 3D Design. Purchasing tools and technology can drain even the most robust of budgets.”

Wreyford’s Thea’s Art Closet request was a plea for carpentry tools for the students in his Modern Design class, a combination of 3D design and Woodshop 101. For each student, he wanted to prepare a kit containing wood chisels, a wheel marking gauge, a detail hand saw, a bevel gauge and a small block plane. He submitted his project to DonorsChoose.org on October 5, 2016, and alerted the Thea Foundation, which kicked in with a matching grant for half of the $1,054 total price tag. Wreyford was then able to share his project, and DonorsChoose.org made it available to national and international donors. By October 14, the project had been fully funded, the supplies were purchased that same day, and a few weeks later, Wreyford’s students excitedly tore into the packages of brand new tools and got to work building and hand-joining their creations.

“Possessing simple fabrication skills and common-sense know-how has complemented [my students’] inventive and fresh design abilities. This marriage of the abstract and the real in each individual produces empowerment and promotes entrepreneurship,” Wreyford said about the project. “I hope that they now respect the design and build process as executed by the individual. Either with traditional means or with modern technology, functional design is a very unique and personal endeavor. No two designers are identical in their perceptions.”

Wreyford said this won’t be the last Thea’s Art Closet project he submits. Noting that each teacher is eligible for one project per year, he said he’ll be back next school year.

Arkansas high school fine arts teachers are eligible for one project per year valued at up to $2,500. Teachers of all subjects in middle and elementary schools are eligible for one Thea’s Art Closet request per year at the values of $1,500 and $1,000 respectively, as long as they incorporate creativity into the curriculum they teach.

Wreyford noted how essential math is to the 3D design and hands-on work his students do. “Most anything in material design, either by hand or digitally, requires strong geometry, algebra, and trigonometry skills. It is a wonderful type of course to offer in conjunction with one of these, particularly trigonometry,” he said.

If you’re an Arkansas teacher who’d like to learn more about obtaining supplies through Thea’s Art Closet, click here to get started. To see which schools are fundraising near you, click here, and please, donate what you can to a project in need!

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