The Art of Community Impact
For a professor in the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University, art means more than just creating something to be admired in a gallery.
Art Professor Jan Amidon wants her students to gain confidence in their God-given creative skills and to experience first-hand the many ways art can have a positive impact. Amidon teaches ART 110, a class that meets the general education requirements of students from majors outside of art.
“That’s what I love about teaching this course. I get to work nursing majors, education majors, physical therapy majors, business majors—it’s really a broad spectrum of students,” Amidon said. “We talk about creativity, brainstorming, idea generation and collaboration. I try to teach them the skills they’re going to need no matter what career they go into—how to collaborate, observe and communicate with people. Yes, it is an art course, but it’s really a life skills course.”
Taking a course about community engagement through Anderson University’s CIDL (Center for Innovation and Digital Learning) inspired Amidon to incorporate a partnership every semester between her ART110 classes and a local non-profit organization. The objective is to create a public project based on the needs of the non-profit.
“We select a different non-profit every semester. In the past, we have partnered with the Cancer Association of Anderson, Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Shelter and Oasis of Hope Foster Care,” Amidon said. For Safe Harbor, Amidon’s students provided tote bags for children in foster care or domestic violence victims, giving them an alternative to stuffing their belongings in garbage bags because they have no luggage.
This semester, the art class partnered with Wild Hearts Equine Therapy Center, which helps people with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges, including at-risk teens, veterans, victims of abuse and many others who are recovering from traumatic experiences. The center, located in the Townville, South Carolina area, needed a sensory/tactile wall for their outdoor riding trail. More than 100 students from both her seated and online classes participated.
“The sensory trail is great for people with sensory sensitivities, those who need to develop balance or core strength, or work on motor skills and problem-solving. Jan's creative talents and desire to help her students develop such an incredible station for our sensory trail is truly a gift,” said Janine Hartley, director of operations at Wild Hearts Equine Therapeutic Center. “This station has it all and received numerous comments on our Facebook page! Bright colors, multiple different textures and even a couple of interactive pieces that include a bell and an abacus strand. Jan's husband Chad, along with Jan and a handful of students installed the station complete with concrete to ensure it will hold up to farm life and the elements. This has been a wonderful addition to our sensory trail. We love it and so do our clients!”
Amidon said, “It’s been on my heart that our campus community needs to reach out beyond the borders and really be proactive in our relationship to the community because we have so many gifts and talents here on campus. I feel that part of our mission is to extend that kindness and those gifts beyond campus and into the community.”