Partner Perspectives are written by members of the Community Consulting Board through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. These articles provide examples of partnerships, best practices, and other insights from the viewpoint of Illinois State University’s community partners.
By Laura Jaster, executive director, Illinois Art Station
Having gotten our start as part of the Illinois State University (ISU) community a little over four years ago, Illinois Art Station (IAS) has enjoyed dynamic and varied relationships with ISU students, faculty, and staff. Now that we are our own independent organization the value of these relationships is made even clearer.
While we are fortunate to have developed collaborative partnerships with a variety of ISU faculty and departments, it is our relationships with ISU students that most directly help us realize our mission and serve the day-to-day needs of our organization. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing transformative learning through hands-on experiences with the visual arts for children, youth, and their families, IAS is continually developing and delivering quality arts education programs in our community. These programs are possible because of the talented students who serve as educators, communication and design staff, and researchers for IAS.
In addition to producing quality arts programming for young people, IAS also strives to serve as a place for professional growth and development, particularly for young art educators. In this capacity, we employ ISU graduate students to serve as our primary instructors. Under the guidance of our Program Coordinator, Joey Hatch (herself a graduate of ISU’s Master’s of Art Education program), graduate students help develop and lead IAS’s core programming. Through our work with children and youth, ages 1 to 18, our art educators have the opportunity to explore teaching a wide range of age and developmental levels and experiment with a variety of art making techniques and materials.
Additionally, our graduate students are able to gain valuable experience in a non-traditional setting. Serving as community educators, they have the freedom to develop curricula that directly addresses the most pressing needs of our community. For example, this past fall our art educators worked to design and deliver online arts programs that brought much needed creativity and enjoyment to children ages 1 to 12. These virtual, At Home programs utilized a Zoom format and allowed our art educators to stretch their own creativity in lesson planning and delivery. I am particularly proud of how our educators took to the challenge of online arts programming and used technology to the best advantage. Through utilizing a secondary camera, our art educators were able to show detailed art making examples and easily highlight books and inspiration artworks.
In addition to our graduate student educators, we are also fortunate to work with students who manage our social media, design our graphics, and help perform valuable research on our programs and funding opportunities. Working directly with these students has been both a personal and professional gain. I have benefited from getting to know them as individuals and assisting them with developing applicable skills that will see them well in their future careers. IAS has also benefited from talented individuals who come with a variety of talents, experiences, and ideas.
Since our founding in 2016 we have employed and partnered with a number of students who helped IAS develop into the organization we are today. Without their efforts we would not be able to produce quality programming or communicate effectively to our community. We have been fortunate to develop such strong partnerships with ISU departments, faculty, and organizations that have led us to talented and dedicated students.
Not only do we reap the benefits of students’ talent, enthusiasm, and diverse skill sets, we also play a part in helping young professionals grow and develop in their careers. IAS is thankful to have a strong partnership with ISU departments and students, allowing us to participate in this mutually beneficial relationship. I value the connections I have made with our students and look forward to many more to come.