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  • Stacey Bowers / Photography by Mark Fonville

Shaping Young Minds: How a Little Rock Teacher Funds Sculpture in the Classroom

Elena Petroukhina, an art teacher at Mann Arts Magnet Middle School in Little Rock, is a Thea’s Art Closet veteran. Over the years, she’s been able to supply her classroom with creative materials that typically fall outside of her annual budget.

“We get a budget for each school year. Usually that covers the basics like pencils, markers, paper, some paint. To give students a variety of experiences with art media, I have to raise extra funds,” Petroukhina said. “Because Mann is an Arts Magnet, many of my kids take art seriously and plan on pursuing art professionally… I want to ensure that they have quality materials to help them grow as young artists.”

In January, she was able to teach her students how to create masks using papier-mâché, paint, glue, masking tape and paintbrushes provided by Thea’s Art Closet. The innovative project wove history and language arts together; the students learned about the history of mask making and the symbolism of masks, then created a mask to represent a character from a book they read in English class.

“Art is organically infused with [other] subjects,” Petroukhina explained. “Nothing exists in a vacuum—not math, not art. All of the disciplines are reflected in art and each other “

She said that teaching sculpture can often be difficult and expensive for teachers, but the opportunity the students get from learning 3-dimensional design is priceless: “Some of the students have special undiscovered talent when it comes to 3-dimenional art.”

Through DonorsChoose, where her project was half-funded by Thea’s Art Closet and half-funded through crowd-sourced donations, Petroukhina was able get the $494 worth of supplies her class needed, and she got a boost of confidence from the arts support. “I love how supportive the community is. So many people donate; not just parents or people directly involved with the school or children, but also people from other states,” she said. “It is truly amazing to know that people understand the importance of art in public schools and support the arts.”

Petroukhina said she’ll depend on Thea’s Art Closet being a huge help to her next year and in the years to come. Please, help keep critical programs like Thea’s Art Closet running by donating to Thea Foundation Thursday, April 6, on Arkansas Gives, a statewide, sponsored and matched day of giving where $400,000 worth of matching dollars are on the line for Arkansas nonprofits.

Your gift to Thea Foundation keeps the arts alive in Arkansas. Please, help us reach our goal of $30,000 on Arkansas Gives (April 6), and your donation will be matched by the Arkansas Community Foundation, meaning even more creative materials and arts programming in Arkansas schools!

Please, mark your calendar, bookmark Thea Foundation on the Arkansas Gives Website, and donate to Thea through the Arkansas Gives website on April 6!

Donate Here on April 6!

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