house and fenceElla Kliger – Contributing Writer

“Art is critical for educating the whole child,” said Naomi Albee, the art teacher for East Franklin Elementary School, Cartoogechaye Elementary School and Union Academy.

She has been teaching in Macon County for eight years. Her students from the three schools will present an art show with a nature theme at the Macon County Public Library on Wednesday, April 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. The art show is co-sponsored by the Nantahala Hiking Club and is part of the library’s Walking in Spring series.

“About four years ago, the Nantahala Hiking Club approached me. They wanted to come in and do a talk about the club, coupling it with the art. I said, ‘Sure, because that’s what I do’. That’s how this came to be. This must be our fourth year doing this art show at the library. Kids and art and nature go together,” Albee said.

“Initially, the first year, and consequently, it’s not like I have to consciously do art for Single treethat show, that theme, because I’m always doing that theme, I’m always using the out of doors as subject matter. The lovely thing is the change of seasons. It’s just an amazing resource. Not just for me as a teacher but artists in general …They are inspired and motivated by nature, and the change of season, and our beautiful blue mountains and those purple trees that are popping up everywhere. Everywhere you look is a wow and a wow and a wow,” Albee said with a smile.

Albee has strong views on the value of art to education.

“Art is a basic part of a good education. It helps children discover the unexpected possibilities of their creativity,” said Albee. Quoting Elliot Eisner, she said, “Art teaches critical thinking rather than getting the right answer. Art celebrates multiple perspectives and different ways to see and interpret the world. Art empowers children to say what cannot be said.”

“I try to make students cognizant of the fact that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the whole world. I truly believe that. The beauty of our surrounding landscape makes my job so easy, because it’s a rich and resilient resource for the students to draw upon – no pun intended.”

house and fence“Some of the kids have been born and raised here and I don’t want them to take it for granted, the beauty, to notice, to pay attention to the beauty that’s around them, ‘cause it’s such a great feeling. Now, with spring, it’s such a renewal of spirit to see the ground just pushing up these beautiful colors,” Albee continued. “I’m just trying to make them aware of that. And most of them are. Most of them make me aware of things that I didn’t know. Today I learned about a certain kind of lizard. Sometimes I think I learn more from them then they learn from me.

“We’re born with a creative spark. I think it’s our jobs as teachers to nurture that spark. I don’t think that spark ever goes out. It’s like a little flame and sometimes you just have to fan it a little bit, make it a little brighter,” said Albee. “The thing that I so enjoy about what I do, when I see an art show like this and I look at the work hanging in the library, if there weren’t art education programs, none of that would exist, it wouldn’t be there. That would be a shame because there are so many amazing creative projects that come out of these kids. The things they do are so amazing. Without an art program, it just wouldn’t be there.

“For the children, the learning that takes place, the creative process, it’s the process that sunflowergoes on within the child rather than the outward product that really is important for personal growth,” said Albee. “As these children are working, they’re thinking, they’re making decisions, feeling good about what they’re doing, changing something that they didn’t like. All the little skills you need to get by in life you learn from the drawing you did in third grade.”