Submitted by Cynthia Stoetzer, Teton Arts Program Director
This piece was originally published in the May 12, 2016 issue of the Teton Valley News as part of the weekly Nonprofit Spotlight presented by the Community Foundation of Teton Valley
Although some people are not fully aware of what we do as a nonprofit organization, Teton Arts has been serving the community of Teton Valley for over 22 years. Our mission is “to cultivate and celebrate the arts and to enhance Teton Valley’s quality of life by providing space and opportunity for arts education, appreciation, and collaboration.” With the support of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley we carry this mission out in a myriad of ways.
Teton Arts provides arts education in the community for people of all ages and backgrounds through classes, workshops, and special programs. One of the programs we are most proud of is the twice monthly ceramics class we provide for a group of cognitively challenged adults from the Joshua Smith Foundation. This group has achieved phenomenal improvements in their creative abilities and overall confidence. At the start of this program, few could construct their own three dimensional clay pieces without a great deal of help. Now, after 9 months, participants are beginning to employ complex techniques such as constructing with coils and mitering joints. Their instructor gets very excited when he talks about the success of his students saying that “just a few weeks ago they couldn’t even attach two pieces of clay.”
We also fulfill our mission through our youth classes. Because limited arts education is provided by the public school system below middle school, it is one of Teton Arts’ highest priorities to provide creative opportunities for kids. Groups from area schools, such as the Teton Valley Community School, the Learning Academy of Teton Valley and Miss Laura’s second grade class from Teton School District #401, have come to our studios on field trips to make special projects. During the visit from Miss Laura’s class, several students surprised their teachers by exclaiming that “this is better than recess!” A core group of home schooled children have also taken advantage of our classes throughout their youth and have literally “grown up” with us. They have learned so much through our programs that these kids come to class and show the new arrivals “how it’s done” by proudly demonstrating advanced art techniques to their peers. This is a great example of how we foster the creative abilities and build confidence in our Valley’s youth.
Considering the size of the community, Teton Arts houses an amazingly extensive and dedicated Arts Center. In this space, people gather not just for classes but also to work independently. We host daily open studio hours which allows artists to utilize all of the equipment available in our facility including; five ceramics kilns, nine potter’s wheels, a slab roller, an etching press, screen printing lab, and our new iMac computer station with photo quality oversized printer. Thanks to the Community Foundation’s $1,000 grant last year, we were able to pay for the wiring and installation of a brand new electric kiln, increasing both studio and energy efficiency.
Many of our users started out taking classes but have graduated to becoming independent professional artists who have even begun teaching some of our classes. One of our favorite stories is of a woman who, in her late thirties decided to take a sculpture class on a bit of a whim, having never had an art class in her entire life. This individual turned out to be one of the most naturally gifted artists anyone had ever seen. From that start in her first art class, she avidly attended numerous classes in succession. She now sells her work professionally, is on the perennial winning team at the Snowscapes snow sculpting competition, and teaches some of our most popular and successful classes. We love quoting her as she says, “Teton Arts showed me something I never knew I had inside me.”
These are just a few of our favorite stories at Teton Arts as we bear witness to our impact on the community. Because of the generosity and support of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley, and the support of so many members of our community, Teton Arts plans to continue sharing our love and appreciation of the arts for another 22 years and beyond.
If you are affiliated with a Teton Valley nonprofit, we want to hear from you! Help us share why Teton Valley nonprofits matter. Each week, the Community Foundation will highlight a local nonprofit in the pages of the Teton Valley News. Email Dawn Banks, Marketing and Programs Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208.354.0230. We look forward to helping share your story!