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Art mentoring makes a difference

This week we are announcing an apple-for-the-teacher award to honor well-known local potter Scottie R. Wiest. Although she has taught at Augusta Heritage Center and Davis & Elkins College, this recognition does not come from her formal teaching experience. Sue Gillispie wrote the following nomination after Scottie mentored her daughter during the last, lonely year of quarantine and isolation.

“I’d like to recognize Scottie Wiest for her contribution to education in the arts. Scottie is an accomplished, local, functioning potter, whose work many Elkinites will recognize from Augusta festival and the Delmonte. She is also active in Mountain Arts District, an organization whose aim is to promote the arts and artists from the region, and to connect artists to help strengthen their practice and promote the arts as an economic driver for the state. Scottie has also played an important role in ArtsBank, a local program that brings practicing artists into elementary school classrooms to provide art instruction.”

“My daughter, who hopes to have a career in the arts, had the opportunity to (safely) meet with and talk to her about building an arts career, and to demonstrate technique and give feedback on my daughter’s work. This type of mentoring shows younger generations that there are opportunities to develop an arts career in a small town and that a vibrant artist community exists to support them.”

“I’m quite sure that these few words just scratch the surface of the contribution that Scottie has made to the community over the years. Scottie, thanks so much, we really appreciate you!”

This example of one-to-one teaching is so basic to the process of natural human learning. Long before we had schools, we had adults who took time to teach younger people how to do what needed to be done. Throughout history we can see that apprenticing, mentoring, and tutoring relationships have helped people learn how to do complex and difficult tasks.

For too long we have had the popular notion that all good students must stay in school and earn higher degrees without thinking about the ways they may want to spend their own time, develop their talents, and earn a living. If nothing else has come from the pandemic experience, parents have had to take a greater role in finding ways to help their children learn in a safe environment.

Art, drama and music can be taught in school, but teachers do not usually show students how to make a living in the arts. Whether we are talking about the fine arts or various crafts, learning how to earn a living and create a responsible career is what is important. I hope that more young people in West Virginia will find great mentors like Scottie Wiest.

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