Elkins Rotary Club members hear ArtsBank presentation

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Jacob Currence, a teaching artist with ArtsBank, explains the value of the program and having artists in county classrooms to Elkins Rotarians Monday, with the help of some of his homemade puppets.

ELKINS — In an effort to give insight on what ArtsBank does within the classroom, Elkins Rotary Club members heard a presentation from a local teaching artist during their Monday lunch meeting.

With assistance from a variety of his own handmade puppets — operated by Davis & Elkins College students Denise Folley and Katie Varchetto — Jacob Currence talked about his experience in classrooms within the county.

Currence said he believes using puppets in the classroom has positively impacted youngsters.

“I personally can tell you, as a person who has worked in the school system with these children, a lot of the children it really affects in a positive aspect, because we try to mix in the Common Core standards with art for the children that can’t sit down in the classroom, the children that can’t pay attention and the children who can’t read a book and just understand how to do things,” he said. “So, this helps a lot of those kids have an outlet to blow off some steam and be ready for the next day. That’s where I think we are really impacting the most students.”

He described one instance where he went into a classroom and taught the students to make dinosaurs. He added he enjoyed working with the students, which led him to ArtsBank.

“Through Davis & Elkins College, I had several courses where we actually went into the classrooms. This style of going into the classrooms and introducing puppetry to students has been very helpful. I did a project where I introduced how to make a dinosaur …,” Currence said. “What happened there is I began to have a passion for working with other students in the classroom, which brought me to working for places like the Randolph County Center for the Arts and then, once I graduated, working with ArtsBank and their students.”

After joining ArtsBank, he continued in the classroom by teaching students how to create characters and use them to have dialogue with one another.

“What I do with the students is teach them to make a character. What we do is make our first draft — where do they live, what is their name, two things they hate, two things they love, and I always tell them ‘This is the most important thing. If you are going to be friends with somebody this is the one thing you have to know, their favorite food,'” Currence said. “The kids have to write all this stuff down; then they do a big show at the very end where their puppets talk to each other, and they have written dialogue and written their own story by themselves.”

Currence began experimenting with and making puppets in elementary school.

“I wasn’t always interested in puppets, but I can remember when my first experience when making puppets was. It was back in the third grade an ArtsBank teacher named Glenda Zimmer appeared and she actually came to my school, which was Homestead Elementary, and we built a puppet show based off the founding of Homestead …,” he said. “The puppets that we created were rod puppets, which are puppets that are controlled by rods as the name would suggest.”

Currence is a resident of Randolph County, graduate of Davis & Elkins College, a teaching artist for ArtsBank and has worked with the Old Brick Playhouse.

ArtsBank will host its 21st annual ArtsBank Auction Fundraiser to benefit Randolph County Schools beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Beverly Fire Hall.

Art education in Randolph County elementary schools was eliminated nearly 30 years ago, and ArtsBank was created by concerned community members to help fund professional artists in the schools. Through ArtsBank education, students experience painting, drawing, pottery, ballet, songwriting, collage-making, quilting, square dancing, puppetry, graphic arts, printmaking, poetry and movement.

Additional information about ArtsBank is available online at www.artsbankwv.com.