A national benchmark in
Educational excellence through integration of the arts


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. 

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!

Red Meander Project and Old Depot Association

Red Meander Project and Old Depot Association

ArtSpace Charter School  is once again grateful for the support of The Old Depot Association of Black Mountain for supporting a public works project that is an homage to the mountain valley in which the school is located. In the 2016-17 school year Visual Art Specialist Jocelyn Reese applied for and received a grant from the Association for the supplies to create an outdoor art piece inspired by the fiber artist Anni Albers.

Ms. Jocelyn felt an exterior breezeway supported by horizontal joists outside the arts wing lent itself perfectly to creating an art piece inspired by the weaving Red Meander, by Anni Albers.  The installation features rows of color on 25 joists that have been painted to mimic Albers’ design.   Anni Albers was a professor at the famed Bauhaus in Germany before its forced close.  She and her husband Joseph were professors at the arts based Black Mountain College from 1933-1949.

Ms. Jocelyn is eager to use this large scale visual work to teach students about weaving elements, geometry, rhythm and unity.  Of course this piece offers students, and other members of the community an example of local art history as well.  The installation was painted by ArtSpace parent and local artist Lara Nguyen and several of her students from Warren Wilson College.

In addition to paint supplies, Ms. Jocelyn requested funds to create signs that explain the significance of the installation, pay homage to Anni Albers, as well as thanking those who made the installation possible. ArtSpace is grateful to Lara, her students and to The Old Depot for supporting this project.

The ArtSpace Community is thankful for the continued support from the Old Depot Association over the years.  Students have had many varied arts opportunities from visiting artist experiences to hands on arts projects due to the dedication of the Association.

The Old Depot Association will be hosting the 20th annual juried art show “Art on the Tracks” on Sutton street, October 28th,

Executive Director Lori Cozzi Receives the Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award from A+ Schools of North Carolina Program

Executive Director Lori Cozzi Receives the Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award from A+ Schools of North Carolina Program

Last week A+ Schools of North Carolina named Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School, the 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year.  What follows is the article posted on the A+ Schools Network blog.

“Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa, was named 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year at an A+ Network webinar on Thursday, May 4. Ms. Cozzi has served the ArtSpace community for 14 years — first as an arts integration specialist, then as a program coordinator, and for the past 10 years as the director. The award recognizes an A+ educator who best exemplifies the values of A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.

Ms. Cozzi has been an educator for more than 30 years, and the arts have been at the core of her teaching and central to the educational programs and professional development she has provided in her many roles. She also believes in the power of the A+ Essentials and how they offer students opportunities to fully engage in the classroom. “Engagement is critical to student success,” Ms. Cozzi shared in her personal statement. “Students want to ‘do,’ to create, to shine and share. My classrooms and the school I lead, the workshops I present, all offer students the opportunity to think deeply and creatively, make connections to the world, and learn with their bodies, minds and hearts.”

Under Ms. Cozzi’s leadership, ArtSpace has developed a highly successful infrastructure that truly supports collaboration among staff allowing for deeply integrated and meaningful experiences for their students. Ms. Cozzi’s purposeful, collaborative planning schedule allows grade level teachers, arts specialists, the assistant director and director to meet once per month to develop quarterly and year-long plans, brainstorm on school-wide projects and exchange ideas that often blossom into highly engaging, successful lesson plans involving several members of ArtSpace’s community. These meetings are “sacred” and ArtSpace staff understand that nothing takes priority over the collaborative planning schedule. “These meetings serve as the cog in the wheel of collaboration at ArtSpace and are intrinsic to the success of our school,” writes Lyn Van Over, 6th grade teacher, and one of the many staff who nominated Ms. Cozzi for the award. “The planning involved to make sure teachers are able to attend these meetings is awe inspiring.” Ms. Cozzi has presented at multiple professional conferences to share her vision and strategy for making successful collaborative planning part of her school community.

Recently, Ms. Cozzi collaborated with a new third grade teacher at ArtSpace to model a deeply integrated project that also gave her the opportunity to stay connected to her students in a classroom setting. The project, entitled “Spectacular Spirals,” provided students with an arts integrated experience that included visual art, dance, language arts, science and math while supporting her new classroom teacher with the tools to build a successful integrated unit. This is just one example of Ms. Cozzi’s dedication to her students and staff and her belief that “the arts are uniquely capable of providing students and teachers with a wide variety of opportunities for growth.”

When reflecting on the impact of A+ on her own school, Ms. Cozzi shared, “When fully embraced by a school community, the A+ philosophy becomes something to believe in and aspire to. A+, when done well, can become a common vision, bringing a school into alignment and focus, unifying its parts.”

Ms. Cozzi holds a degree in elementary education and a master of science in art education. She is also national board certified as a middle childhood generalist. She has been an A+ Fellow since 1999 and serves as an A+ Liaison to several of our A+ schools in the western part of the state.

As the 2017 A+ Educator of the Year, Ms. Cozzi will receive classroom arts products generously donated by Crayola, will attend NCCAT’s Leadership Academy with other statewide and district Educators of the Year, and will serve as an “ambassador” for the A+ Schools of North Carolina for the upcoming school year.

The Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award was created in memory of Gerry D. Howell, long-time A+ Schools executive director and the inspiration behind the creative teaching and learning of countless educators, administrators and students across N.C. To honor her legacy, each year the A+ Schools selects one dedicated A+ educator who best exemplifies these values of the A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.” (posted with the permission of the A+ Schools Network).


The Little Prince: Time Bandits – A Multilayered Performance

The Little Prince: Time Bandits – A Multilayered Performance

One of the Little Prince's

One of the LIttle Prince’s

Recently 4th grade students at ArtSpace Charter School performed an original multi-layered social studies play entitled “The Little Prince Time Bandits”.  This piece combined puppet theater segments adapted from Antoine St. Exupery’s existential fable, The Little Prince and scenes that illustrated historical moments and people of North Carolina as Europeans settled and clashed with indigenous peoples.  

Ms. Tonya, 4th grade social studies and language arts teacher, shared The Little Prince with her students early in the school year.  They spent time diving into the “moral of the story” as the Little Prince encountered the many characters in his story. IMG_6656As they explored the Little Prince in language arts, students were learning about NC history beginning with the natural history, and ending with westward expansion of the United States. Ms. Tonya watched her students make connections to the archetype characters in The Little Prince to the people in NC history. With the necessary background knowledge in their “toolboxes” students wrote scripts, created the puppets and and stages for the puppet segments which technology teacher Steve Lipe helped film.

The stage action in the productions was written using excerpts


One of the puppet theaters. Students are preparing to film their segment.

from poems and historical fiction the 4th graders had written from the perspective of the plants and animals of Pisgah Forest, the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and Daniel Boone.

This experience offered 4th graders at ArtSpace a layered exploration of the patterns of change in history and character development in fiction.  The students applied the information they learned through their research and reading to a dramatic production they will never forget.  When asked what they enjoyed the most about the production, the students were eager to share.  “I

A dance representation of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

A dance representation of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

loved making the puppet stages for the videos,” one student exclaimed.  Another student said they enjoyed collaborating with their friends to make the puppet pieces happen.  Students were also asked how they thought the lessons of the Little Prince and the experience of North Carolinians in history could apply today. One student summed it up and said if we could apply the moral of the story from the play today, things would be a lot nicer. The moral of the story is summed up by the closing dialogue of two railroad engineers contemplating the stories they have just watched. “Perhaps the children are lucky because they know it is all about time.  When you spend time getting to know a person, creating a work of art, or building a railroad, it becomes very important to you. . . You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. “


ArtSpace Grateful for Partnership with Old Depot Association

ArtSpace Grateful for Partnership with Old Depot Association

Over the years ArtSpace Charter School has depended on the generosity of various community organizations to support special programming that would not be affordable otherwise.  ArtSpace is very grateful for their continued relationship with the Old Depot Association in Black Mountain, who has funded several projects for ArtSpace through their yearly education grants. These grants have afforded many art opportunities for ArtSpace students through performances, workshops by visiting artists and purchasing materials for large scale arts projects.

record album flower garden public art piece

record album flower garden public art piece

For example, in 2008 the Open Dream Ensemble shared their performances with the entire student body and held workshops for various grade levels in their classrooms. In 2014 world renowned percussionist Beverly Botsworth performed for the entire student body and worked closely with 2nd and 6th graders weaving percussion concepts into other curriculum areas in their classroom.  In addition, teachers at every grade level were grateful to receive a teacher focused workshop from Ms. Botsworth.

Half of the Scott Allred mural.

Half of the Scott Allred mural.

ArtSpace was able to fund the design and implementation of a Scott Allred mural that spans the first main hallway of their building with an Old Depot grant and grant funds allowed us to build a raised stage in our dedicated theatre space, making performances more accessible for audiences and performers a like.

In the 2014-15 school year the school received the grant for a public art project. Under the guidance of Executive Director, Lori Cozzi, all students recycled record albums by painting them and converting them into a flower.  The students’ flowers were compiled together to create a garden that was on display along the playground in the front of campus.

These are just a few examples of the many projects The Old Depot Association has funded over the years.  ArtSpace is so very grateful to this organization!




Professional Development in the Arts Offers Teachers New Skills

Professional Development in the Arts Offers Teachers New Skills

Each year ArtSpace Charter School schedules early release days as a part of the school calendar.  When the students go home the teachers stay to plan, meet with other teachers, and most often to attend professional development workshops to learn more about effective teaching.  In December teachers chose to attend one of two arts workshops offered by teaching peers at ArtSpace.  Teachers either attended a printmaking workshop or a music and dance language workshop.  


1st grade teacher Ms. Claire inks up a fish for a print.

The intention of these workshops was to give the general education teachers more tools to integrate the arts in their own classrooms, creating more opportunities for two-way integration.  Two-way integration means arts objectives and “academic” objectives from the NC Essential Standards and/or the Common Core, are taught in conjunction with each other. Two-way integration is a consistent goal at ArtSpace and other A+ Schools who seek to use arts integration as a philosophical approach to educating children.

Kindergarten teacher Andrea Giglitto and third grade teacher Melissa Redden were two of the printmaking workshop facilitators.  These teachers received a scholarship to attend a week long retreat hosted by the Nature Printing Society at Wild Acres in Little Switzerland, NC earlier this school year.  It is a common occurrence for teachers at ArtSpace to teach workshops after returning from a professional development opportunity off campus.  Teachers and administrators at the school are always seeking new and interesting arts integration trainings that can be shared with the entire community upon their return. Ms. Melissa and Ms. Andrea rotated staff through a fish printing class and a basic brayer class, while ArtSpace parent and Nature Printing Society Education Coordinator, Bridget Benton, taught staff how to use a pasta machine as a printing press with watercolors. In Bridget’s class, participants also were exposed to ecodying with a rice steamer over the course of the afternoon.

Music and Dance Specialists Meg Boerner and Rebecca Triplett shared samples of music and dance recordings to illustrate vocabulary important to dance and music creation and performance.  Teachers who attended this workshop can use this information when assessing students in projects using dance to demonstrate knowledge of a unit.  Middle school science teachers Nick


Kindergarten teacher Ms. Rebekah helps a student create a print.

Rogowski and Lyn VanOver are happy to have vocabulary to use with the kids as they create movement or dance pieces in their classroom. Middle school language arts teacher Leila Wheless is eager to use the terminology in conjunction with the writing process.

Kindergarten teacher Rebekah Walker was very excited to attend the printmaking workshop.  She employed some of the techniques she learned with her kindergartners just days later.  She is also looking forward to employing Gyotaku (fish) printing to compare and contrast characteristics of animals which is a large part of the kindergarten science curriculum.

Field Trips – Real World Integration

Field Trips – Real World Integration

4th grader examining insect life in the Cradle of Forestry.

4th grader examining insect life in the Cradle of Forestry.

SWANNANOA, NC, October 11, 2016 – At ArtSpace Charter School  arts integrated experiences are expected on a day to day basis; it is the educational philosophy in which the school is grounded. Teachers  and administrators at ArtSpace feel “real world” integration is hugely important as well. Only one month into the school year and every grade level at ArtSpace has been on a field trip or has one scheduled to happen before the end of October.

All of these field trips support the learning objectives students are working on in the classroom and offer another opportunity to apply this knowledge in the world they will use them in outside of school.

4th grader examining insect life in the Cradle of Forestry.

4th grader examining insect life in the Cradle of Forestry.

Kindergartners have visited an apple orchard after discussing the attributes of apples; how they can be the same and different. Comparing, contrasting and the exploration of attributes is a big part of the kindergarten curriculum.  7th and 8th graders explored team building on a hike to Black Balsam and 6th graders did the same at the Warren Wilson College Alpine Tower.

6th Grade Alpine Tower 2016

6th graders climbing the alpine tower at Warren Wilson College

Students in all grade levels at ArtSpace Charter School will experience an average of 4 field trips before the end of the school year.  ArtSpace takes a hands on, experiential approach to learning in the classroom and these field trips add the perfect punctuation mark to new learning because they offer real world experience in which to apply it.