Burrell School District takes art education seriously, and it shows. The district has recently been named as an Outstanding Visual Arts Community by the Pennsylvania Art Education Association (PAEA). Only 27 districts across the state received this prestigious recognition.
Denise Wagner, Burrell School District Art Department Chair and High School Art Teacher, said she nominated the school because it’s the fifth year they’re holding their big art show and it seemed like a good time to get more recognition for it.
In the past, Burrell Arts and Music Night has drawn thousands of attendees from across the community. In fact, it got so big that the district had to park people elsewhere and shuttle them in.
“I think it’s amazing the number of people we get to come to events for such a small school district,” said Wagner. “They embrace it, and some of the other smaller districts don’t necessarily see that with parents and community.”
While the art show might be the art department’s most prolific event, it’s not the only one. The school also partners with animal rescues, nursing homes, and libraries to provide artwork and give their students new experiences. And there are usually running shows throughout the school buildings.
Having a highly visible program was one of the criteria the PAEA used to determine which schools were deserving of the award. The other included having rigorous and inclusive programs as well as programs that are highly accessible to all students.
That’s become a bit of a challenge this year with the new learning structure, but Wagner has done everything she can to keep her students involved, including separating and sanitizing supplies and making art kits for every student.
Older students also have an online art site where they can work on lessons remotely. And even when things went completely virtual, she even went as far as to deliver supplies to students on her lunch break.
“It’s challenging for me, but that’s fun, because we have to figure it out,” Wagner said. “Some things work and some things don’t, so we keep plugging away.”
While she’s not entirely sure how this year’s art show will work yet, she’s hopeful that the department can find a way to get people to see their art.
“I think it’s inspiring that we got this award,” Wagner said. “Now I think it’s a challenge to keep it up and keep moving ahead and working to change things so we can keep doing as many things as we did before.”