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Eric Sutton Gets a Fresh StART

Eric Sutton has been the art teacher at Loper Elementary School in Shelbyville, Indiana for 22 years. Eric always knew that he wanted to teach in the public school system. His charisma and genuine kindness has helped Eric pursue his passion for teaching and for the arts.

Eric was nominated for Fresh StART, an Arts for Learning program, by the Blue River Foundation in Shelbyville.  “After being nominated I talked to Ploi who helped me understand what the program entailed.” Through this program, students meet and collaborate with an artist to create an artwork that transforms a space in their school. This process started the creation of the mural at Loper Elementary.

After meeting with our staff, Eric moved forward with the Fresh StART project. Students at Loper Elementary would be involved in planning and co-creating a mural with Artur Silva, a well-known Indianapolis-based visual artist. The project was made possible by grants from the Lee Marks-John DePrez Community Arts Fund at Blue River Community Foundation (BRCF) and BRCF Community Endowment Fund.

To start the project, Eric worked with Bonnie Maurer, an Arts for Learning teaching artist, who came to Loper Elementary to lead six, 45-minute workshops. “The workshops were about kindness and why everyone is beautiful and unique in their own way,” Eric described Bonnie’s work with the students as a truly unique experience. “The work she got out of the students was amazing and very personal.” In a matter of 45 minutes, Bonnie stirred the curiosity of students with imaginative questions and creative exercises. Using their imagination and creative abilities, the students produced exceptional poems and drawings that sparked interest and conversation among the faculty, teachers, and students.

Eric was a key figure in helping to plan and receive grants for the project. “I had been set on having Artur Silva be the artist we collaborated with. But we ran into an obstacle when he said that he needed another $5,000 to complete the project.” Eric took the time to photocopy the student’s poems and give them to the Program Director of the Blue River Foundation, Lynne Ensminger, who then shared them with the board of directors.  After reading the students poems, the board members felt a deeper connection to the students and the project. They even told Lynne that one of the main reasons they decided to donate the money was a result from the experience of reading the poems.

The project was finished and revealed in May, and the reception from the students and the faculty was extremely positive. The mural is eight-feet tall and 43-feet wide, and stretches down an entire hallway of the school. Students pass this mural daily and admire the art that was created. Schools are not always beautiful and inviting spaces, but art has the ability to transform a space, and that is what happened at Loper Elementary school. “The students and the principal were all amazed by the mural, and really, really love it and love looking at it.” Not only were the students and teachers amazed, but the board and investors were absolutely blown away with the end result.

Eric is a firm believer in the arts and the power of art. “The arts speak to us, it’s about humanity. Art changes your perspective and teaches people about life. I firmly believe that the arts saved me in high-school and that being able to exercise my passion has changed my life.”

Written by Olivia Funderburg and edited by Anya Stucky

The mural spans the entire hallway.
Eric Sutton and Artur Silva, the artist.


Student with his poem, which is displayed with the mural.
2 weeks ago

My First Experience with an Arts for Learning Program

By Olivia Funderburg, Marketing and Communications Intern

I had the privilege of watching the middle-schoolers of Marion Academy participate in the Arts for Learning program, Cultural Dance of West Africa, led by dancer Ronne Stone. Ronne worked with them on rhythm and got them singing and dancing. She taught them certain dances which originated from Africa and talked about her own African heritage.

Ronne started the class by introducing herself and for the first half taught them how to play the drums and sing an African song. She explained what rhythm was and how different parts of the drum speak in different tones. She then led the students through a rhythm pattern where they followed along with her and tried to copy what she was doing. The next part of the program was teaching the children an African song. Ronne taught them the lyrics and correct pronunciation. The students then put both the drumming and singing together. This last step proved to be a little rhythmically challenging so they were broken into groups to perform the song.

After teaching them the drums and a song, Ronne taught them a welcoming dance. The dancing got the students really excited. They were taught different movements and the meaning of each movement. After learning this welcoming dance they stood in their circle and Ronne led the dance through clapping. The smiles of the children grew bigger throughout the whole process of learning this dance. The last thing Ronne did with them was a little bit of free style and Simon Says. Each kid was given the chance to get in the center of the circle and do their own moves. She had them running around the room dancing and laughing. Ronne was able to teach these kids so many amazing things while helping them feel comfortable to express themselves.

Art and music provide children with a unique experience. Not only do they learn something new, but they are able to break out of their comfort zone and have a positive experience learning. The arts provide a safe environment where it is okay to act silly and have fun. I watched Ronne Stone work with these children with patience and love, while helping them feel comfortable in their own skin. At the beginning of class, some students did not seem very interested and acted like they did not want to be there, but by the end they were all actively participating with smiles on their face.

3 weeks ago

Martha Beckort and Her Dedication to Finding Funding

Martha Beckort has been the media specialist at Lanesville Community Schools for 21 years. In addition to working with grades K-12, Martha collaborates with faculty to coordinate teacher professional development, assemblies, and other events, which is how she first came to Arts for Learning.

“I think I got a flyer in the mail or something,” Martha says, “and we realized how great your performances would work for our assemblies.” That was 15 years ago, and Lanesville Community Schools has been booking our performances ever since.

About five years ago, Martha began applying for grants from the Indiana Arts Commission to bring Arts for Learning workshops to the district. Any grants received by the IAC are automatically matched by the local community foundation, the Harrison County Community Foundation. Thanks to Martha’s effort and dedication, Lanesville Community Schools has received about $10,000 every year for Arts for Learning workshops in the visual arts and music classrooms.

Teaching artist Mac Bellner leads her “Mama I’m Bored – Pioneer Games” workshop at Lanesville Community Schools.

“The children absolutely love [the workshops]!” Martha says, “The students that experience these workshops tell their friends, and then I have students coming up to me asking, ‘When do we get to do the drumming workshop?’” Martha understands how much value these programs have for the children. “It’s an experience they wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else,” she explains.

Grant writing may seem intimidating, but Martha assures teachers it is not. “Staying organized and having strong writing skills is key,” she insists. The regional director for the Indiana Arts Commission as well as the local community foundation sponsor grant-writing workshops in her area, and she highly recommends taking advantage of opportunities like these. Martha also says asking the community to help out is a good option too. “Ask a business to fund a program. You’d be surprised how many say ‘yes.’”

Like most of us who support the arts, Martha recognizes the importance of arts in education programming, but also the difficulties of funding. Her commitment to providing a well-rounded education for students led her to resources that she may not have found without effort and dedication.

Funding the arts is not as daunting as it may seem. For more ideas, check out our resources page here.

September 18, 2018

Arts for Learning Receives Grant Funding for Programs at Pine Elementary

News Release

For Immediate Release

August 9, 2018



Contact: Anya Stucky

Marketing & Communications Specialist

Arts for Learning

Phone: (317) 925-4043 ext. 120



Arts for Learning Receives Grant Funding for Programs at Pine Elementary


Indianapolis –August 9, 2018… Arts for Learning is the recipient of grants from the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, an organization dedicated to bringing together people of diverse backgrounds, and the Tuholski & Oberlie Environment & Arts Fund for Youth. The funding will support “Dancing Through the Curriculum” residencies by teaching artist Melli Hoppe at Pine Elementary in grades 3-6. This residency connects dance with each grade level’s core curriculum and teaches them focus, problem solving, and cooperation.

As the oldest and largest provider of professional arts in education programs in the state, Arts for Learning employs more than 100 teaching artists who provide performances, workshops and residencies to schools, libraries, parks and community organizations. Arts for Learning reaches nearly 50,000 Indiana children every year.


August 9, 2018