Oklahoma educators and artists journeyed to the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center this October for hands-on training at the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute (OFAI), a series of intensive weekend workshops taught by nationally renowned artists in the literary, visual, and performing arts. The following educators from the Shawnee-area attended OFAI:

Epic Charter School – Vida Carey

Jefferson Elementary School – Dee Dee Hall

Sequoyah Elementary School – Heather Dunn, Jeanne Swinney

Shawnee High School – Jeremy Burnett, Bruce Bushong

Shawnee Middle School – Kendra Butler, Kelli Goodnight, Trecia Leach

Tecumseh High School – John Carey

Since 1983, the Oklahoma Arts Institute has offered the workshops, which allow artists the opportunity to sharpen their skills, or learn new ones altogether, in an immersive environment with innovators in their fields. For years, OFAI has connected Oklahoma teachers with some of the nation’s leading teaching artists, offering professional development and valuable training for educators to take back to their classrooms across the state. Oklahoma public school educators attend OFAI on full scholarship.

"OFAI was one of the best educational development experiences I've experienced," said Burnett. "Being immersed in poetry, surrounded by like minds challenged the best in us as writers, as educators, and as occupants in this shared existence."

The workshops are geared to a variety of interests and teaching backgrounds. This year, participants chose from classes in photography, printmaking, painting, poetry, and more. Workshops especially designed for educators included Social Emotional Learning and the Arts, A World of Rhythm, Bringing Fiction to Theatrical Life, and Folk Dance in the Classroom.

"OFAI is by far the best training for fine arts in the state," said Swinney. "I have attended four different times, and I always learn something I can use in my class.  This year I brought back several folk dances I can share with my students."

Participants had the rare opportunity to study with digital journalist Suzi Pond. In her workshop, Introduction to Audio Storytelling, Suzi instructed participants in capturing audio and editing content to create a compelling narrative. Participants gained familiarity with recording equipment, editing software, methods for audio storytelling, and other skills that can be applied to radio and podcasting.

Throughout the workshops, participants also enjoyed activities and electives in yoga, guided stargazing, community drum circle, meditation, drypoint printmaking, tai chi, hiking, and more.

“It’s imperative that Oklahoma educators have access to professional development opportunities of the highest caliber,” said Julie Cohen, Oklahoma Arts Institute President & CEO. “OFAI gives these educators the unique chance to broaden their artistic horizons while learning techniques they can take back to their students across the state.”

Every year, the Oklahoma Arts Institute reaches over 50,000 Oklahoma school children through their teachers' attendance at OFAI. Oklahoma public school educators receive full scholarships to attend OFAI, which include tuition, room, and board. Shawnee-area educator scholarships are made possible through funding from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Avedis Foundation, BancFirst Charitable Foundation, and E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation. Additional program support is provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Next summer, Oklahoma high school students can also study with the nation’s top artists at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, held June 13-28, 2020. Auditions for this prestigious program begin in January at locations across the state, and every accepted student receives a scholarship to the program. More information is available at oaiquartz.org. 

This project was supported in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council, which receives support

from the State of Oklahoma and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Oklahoma Arts Institute is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1977, with a mission to provide exceptional multidisciplinary arts experiences that develop individual talent and inspire a lifelong passion for the arts.