A national benchmark in
Educational excellence through integration of the arts

Posts Written By: erin

ArtSpace and Ten Thousand Flowers Project

ArtSpace and Ten Thousand Flowers Project

Last week the ArtSpace community was invited to take part in a nationwide art piece entitled the Ten Thousand Flowers Project.  Artist Tim Gibson, founder of the project facilitated a paint day with students, staff and any member of the ArtSpace community who wanted to take part in the work. This mural will be part of a series he plans to paint across the country to reach the goal of 10,000 flowers.

ArtSpace was fortunate to be featured on Never Stop Learning on WLOS.  You can check out the video here!

Summer Construction Projects Complete!

Summer Construction Projects Complete!

The construction projects at ArtSpace were a huge undertaking this summer. It is already hard to remember how different the school looked before the projects began in early June! It is so comforting to have a sidewalk connecting the front and back dismissal areas making travel safer for pedestrians on campus.  Painting the building the crisp new gray and finishing it off with stripes to match the mural painted on the front playground fence have brought a wonderful vibrancy to the facade of the school or adding a deck to our home using Redwood decking materials are some of our many projects. It has also been a joy to watch students and parents, alike, gather in the seating area in front of the beautiful new cedar fence pickets that frames up the playground.

materials are some of our many projects. It has also been a joy to watch students and parents, alike, gather in the seating area in front of the beautiful new fencing that frames up the playground.

We are thankful to Advantage Civil Engineering, PA, Tennoca Construction Company, Bionic Man Painting Co. and PFA Architects, p.a., they were instrumental in making ArtSpace’s dreams become a reality with soundproofing products.  The only thing left to do is install new landscaping to the beds in the front and along the side of the building. The ArtSpace Vision Fund will be dedicated to completing this task as well as maintaining and upgrading technology tools on campus. If you would like to help us reach this goal please follow this link to donate today!

4th Grade Exercises Their Right to Assemble

4th Grade Exercises Their Right to Assemble

This fall 4th-grade students were immersed in the study of the constitution, The Bill of Rights and more specifically the 1st Amendment. Tonya Clanton, 4th-grade language arts and social studies teacher, led her students in an examination of the peaceful protests of the Little Rock 9, the Greensboro 4k, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, learning how non-violence, determination, and endurance can lead to positive change over time. 

Students drawing a poster

Fourth grade also studied the history of Earth Day through climate science, current events, and writings by environmental activist Rachel Carson.  Fourth graders were also introduced to the efforts of youth activist Greta Thurnberg. And how one person can make a positive change. 

4th graders then created a plan to demonstrate to ArtSpace the right of Americans to assemble and speak to the cause of protecting the Earth. Students made posters in small groups for the big day. Ms. Tonya guided them to work with a limited color palette and simple eye-catching phrases for a more powerful impact. Students also choreographed a dance routine that spoke to the cause as well.

On September 20th, the 4th graders performed a “flash mob” on the field.  They created a chant with hand motions to act out the freedom of speech, religion, the press, the right to petition, and the right to assemble.  Their efforts were featured on WLOS’ Never Stop Learning on September 23rd. You can watch the story here.

The Art of Kindness

The Art of Kindness

Parents and students at ArtSpace are being reintroduced this year to an outstanding data-based program called Olweus Bully Prevention. Developed by Dr. Dan Olweus, the program teaches students that feeling safe and respected at school is a basic human right that must be cultivated intentionally and retaught as needed.  The program focuses on the involvement of the entire student and adult population at school and explicitly teaches strategies for intervening with students who bully or condone bullying behaviors, as well as instructions for bystanders who are unsure how to react and supports for students who experience bullying behaviors and training for adult responders.  

The backbone of Olweus is the following four rules which can be seen posted in classrooms and halls around ArtSpace:

The program aims to reduce incidents of bullying in the first place by creating a culture that does not allow it and to teach students how to verbalize and take action when they witness bullying behavior. During weekly class meetings, students are taught how to discuss situations with honesty and sincerity then practice actively – sometimes through role-play activities – how to shift a bullying encounter so that it unfolds with a more positive outcome. These class meetings help students understand what bullying is and explore the difference between bullying behaviors and mean behaviors or roughhousing behaviors. 

Bullying is defined by the Olweus Program as:

  • aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions
  • that involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time
  • where there is an imbalance of power or strength

Middle School language arts teacher, Ms. Leila, has been very impressed with the focus of her students during their first two class meetings. “It’s tempting for some teens to roll their eyes at the idea of having meetings about bullying behaviors… but [students] have been honest, productive…and have started delving into what really happens when kids exclude, mock and invalidate others.”

When asked, all teachers, not just those at ArtSpace, would say that real learning can only happen if students feel safe in their environment. ArtSpace asks students to experiment with their creativity; to try and fail, learn and then try again – and this requires an even more heightened sense of safety in their learners.  By honing in on the components of the Olweus Bully Prevention Program as a whole school, ArtSpace faculty and staff assure students that they are in a space safe to learn, and empowered to help make the space safe for everyone.

Along with our participation in such national initiatives such as No Place for Hate and Pink Shirt Day, the Olweus Bully Prevention Program grounds the school in tolerance, respect, and kindness. The goal is that ArtSpace will always be an oasis where students are respected, embraced, and supported–and moreover a place where all students are empowered to cultivate strategies for standing up for social justice whenever and wherever others are vulnerable. 

Summer Construction Projects

Summer Construction Projects

June 18th, 2019

Summer construction projects have begun!  During this process, please remember, there is no parking in front of the school and the main entrance to the building is closed. School visitors may park in the gravel lot across the street and enter via the loading dock door on the Sherwood Road side of the building off the North Wing. This door will only be unlocked for camp drop off and pick up (8:15-9:15, 12:15-12:45, and 3:45-5:00). At all other times, the door will be locked. Visitors are advised to call the front office at 298-2787 to schedule visits. We are excited about the changes happening this summer and thank you for your patience during the construction.

If you or someone you know would like to support us in achieving our goal please follow the link below!

ArtSpace Family Rave Night

Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. If you wish to make a donation to Ms. Claire but can not attend the rave please use the “button” below to make a donation using PayPal.  You do not have to have a PayPal account to make a donation.

15 Years of Shakespeare in the Valley!

15 Years of Shakespeare in the Valley!

AN ARTSPACE JOURNEY – John Hall, 6th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher

I began my teaching job at ArtSpace Charter School in the fall of 2003, after almost three years teaching at West McDowell Junior High.  Before I became a teacher, I worked in professional theatre as an actor, director and producer.  Through my experience with children’s theatre, I experienced the power of creative dramatics with young people. When I began teaching at ArtSpace, a school dedicated to integrating the arts with the standard course of study, I knew I could utilize my theatre background in the classroom.  So, in my first year as a language arts and social studies teacher at ArtSpace I worked with our drama specialist Josh Batenhorst to introduce the works of William Shakespeare to sixth and seventh grade.  Why Shakespeare? Integrating the plays of William Shakespeare into the language arts and socials studies curriculum allowed me to teach figurative language, poetry and storytelling to students within a historical and social context, and it allowed our drama specialist to teach the theatre arts curriculum as well. Plus, it was fun!

Female student standing next to an older man with a clipboard on a stage

Mr. Hall giving notes to a student in the 2015-2016 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor

Our first productions, Hamlet (7th grade) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (6th grade) took place in my classroom.  We used shortened versions of the plays, with slightly altered translations of the text to make them more accessible to students. It was a challenging endeavor, to say the least, though ultimately a success and the feedback from students, families and staff encouraged me to continue the yearly project.  Since ArtSpace, a fairly new school in the early 2000’s, didn’t yet have its own theatre, the next few years we rented spaces from local venues such as NC Stage Company, Belk Theatre at UNCA and The Asheville School to perform our Shakespeare plays.  Our productions grew in ambition, and students even performed scenes for a retirement home in nearby Black Mountain.  After a few years, Josh (Captain Josh as we all called him) challenged me to drop the slightly-altered versions and have students perform the true Shakespearean texts. Working solely with sixth graders at that point, I was concerned students might struggle with the difficult words, but ultimately agreed that the beauty of Shakespeare’s imagery and writing was worth the struggle.  It was a wise move, and the experience of hearing Shakespeare’s soaring language coming from our students was magical.

In our new theatre space that opened in 2008, sixth graders have tackled such plays as Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, MacBeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V, As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors (set in the Star Wars universe no less!)  Captain Josh left ArtSpace a few years ago, but our current drama specialist Beth Lexa has continued working with sixth grade to bring Shakespeare’s plays to the stage.

Two female middle school students standing on stage wearing Elizabethan clothing

From the 2016-2017 production of The Merchant of Venice

Not only does utilizing Shakespeare’s works enable me to teach language and oral expression in a historical context, the plays are also able to be used as vehicles to address social and ethical issues.  For example, last year’s sixth graders performed The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, two highly controversial plays – Merchant for its anti-Semitism, and Shrew for its sexism.  Because I knew we’d be performing these plays in March, I began the school year focusing on the theme of “status” and how ancient cultures developed social systems based on levels of status, often regarding gender. Furthermore, when we began preparing for our plays, students conducted interviews with family members regarding moments in their lives when they were aware of status, and how that awareness affected them. The results of these family conversations were astounding. Parents and grandparents related experiences of gender inequality and racial profiling, among other memories.  Students also studied the history of anti-Semitism and how it spread over Europe and eventually the U.S. In fact, at the same time students were rehearsing The Merchant of Venice, the U.S. saw an uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes.  Though not always pleasant, this exploration of status in ancient cultures and our own society deepened students’ understanding of the two plays they were performing as well as the human proclivity for exclusion and alienation.

What has been the legacy of fifteen years of Shakespeare in the Swannanoa Valley? Former students and parents of former students relate stories of how their experiences with Shakespeare’s plays in sixth grade at ArtSpace positively affected their lives.  Several former students are still performing on stage in high school and college, and tell us that their love of theatre and performance began with their sixth grade Shakespeare plays. Though our yearly Shakespeare plays have given students the opportunity to develop a love of performing, they’ve also given struggling students an opportunity to experience success where they haven’t in traditional academics. Some of my best memories from the Shakespeare plays have been when struggling students or students with special needs were able to achieve success and receive positive feedback from peers.  The confidence these students received from their success in the plays stuck with them, affecting other areas of their learning and their lives.  These memories are most gratifying.

So, as March approaches, ArtSpace sixth grade is once again in preparation for our Shakespeare plays. As in 2003, our plays will be Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  To quote from Hamlet, “The play’s the thing!”

This article can also be found online at the Black Mountain News


8th Graders at ArtSpace Make Chemistry Visual

8th Graders at ArtSpace Make Chemistry Visual

An example of an elemental trading card

All across North Carolina 8th grade students learn about the basics of chemistry, as it is a major focus of the NC Essential Science Standards.  Students explore the periodic table of elements, what the labels mean, and how the table is organized. Students also investigate the structure of an atom and the types of atomic bonds, as well as the basics of a balanced chemical equation after a reaction.

At ArtSpace Charter School 8th graders discover, think deeply about, and experiment with these concepts through several visual arts projects facilitated by their teacher Nick Rogowski.  One of these projects is to represent the properties, and atomic information of a specific element, by producing an elemental trading card. After exploring the information presented about each element presented in the periodic table, the students research the origins and organization of the periodic table.  To assess their understanding Mr. Nick assigns a painting in which students create artistic metaphors to represent the categories and organization of the Periodic Table.

Organization of the periodic table painting

Brochure about different types of molecular bonds

Next students move beyond the elements to an exploration of molecular bonds.  Students create a “travel

brochure” to solidify their understanding. One of the final concepts students investigate in 8th-grade chemistry is the “balancing of elements” after a chemical reaction.  8th graders at ArtSpace observe the work of sculptor Alexander Calder and create mobiles of balanced chemical equations.

Certainly, all of this science could be studied in a textbook, and a few short answer questions might suffice to assess basic understanding of this unit, but students at ArtSpace create connections between science and visual art, which helps solidify deeper understanding, as well as allowing them to be creative as they demonstrate their knowledge. Through visual art projects teacher Nick Rogowski has also required his students to synthesize the information they have learned at a much more sophisticated level than short answer questions ever could.  That’s the power of arts integration!

Examples of Alexander Calder inspired balanced equation mobiles



ArtSpace Community Thankful for Playspace Improvements

ArtSpace Community Thankful for Playspace Improvements

Over the years at ArtSpace, our outdoor space has evolved from very humble beginnings to the large multi-use space it is now.  Some of this change has happened gradually, with the driving force of dedicated staff members and parent volunteers. Seasoned staff members Lyn Van Over and Darlene Dimenna can recount many of the herculean tasks accomplished under their guidance and with the support of our community.

Students enjoy spinning on the new merry-go-round

Recently, however, due to a combination of unfortunate and much more fortunate events, outdoor spaces at ArtSpace have achieved a level beyond the imaginings of those first families who made up the ArtSpace Community.

At the close of the 2014-15 school year, ArtSpace won a playground sweepstakes that amounted to some expensive playground equipment, and a $15,000 cash prize to be spent on the outdoor space in a way that would encourage physical fitness. A hard surface court was created in part due to this influx of funds.

In the 2015-16 school year, ArtSpace experienced a flood that “was bad . . . really bad” in the words of ArtSpace’s loyal, multi-tasking building manager, Thomas Solesby.  P.A.C.E., the governing board of the school, and administrators were aware of the possibility of flood damage being great and consultations as well as planning were underway to create a solution, but the funds needed were also a factor.

Due to a devoted community, ArtSpace received thousands of dollars in donations after the flood.  Along with our insurance settlement and money withdrawn from reserve funding, the necessary engineering was undertaken to ensure that ArtSpace wouldn’t experience another catastrophic flood event.  That process required the removal of a lot of earth from around the building, which was relocated across the street to the field and playground areas.  This was a blessing in disguise, creating the ability for a track to be created around the field, as well as expanding the play space for more equipment.

The new spider web located east of the swings

This is when F.A.C.E. (Foundation for the Arts at the Core of Education) stepped in with funds from our 2nd Act ArtSpace Community Thrift Store.  The store, which opened during the 2015-16 school year, has been a huge success under the management of Robin Allred, and support of the F.A.C.E. board.  The Thrift Store was launched with the purpose of creating an income stream for the school, as well as a community resource for the Swannanoa Valley at large.

With some of the profits made in the 2016-17 school year, F.A.C.E. funding helped to purchase and install the merry-go-round, rope web, and climbing cube just east of the swings.  Students have really enjoyed having the added equipment on which to climb and spin. Veteran staff members are grateful that people continued to fight for their vision of enhanced play spaces for the students at ArtSpace.  The development of the outdoor spaces at ArtSpace has far surpassed any original plans.  The school is so thankful that F.A.C.E. considered the play needs of the students and invested in this new equipment.  ArtSpace is also so very thankful for the entire community who have supported the store through donations, purchases, and volunteer hours and would like to offer a big thank you to everyone involved!