The Baum School of Art & Building 21 in Allentown
An interview with Shannon Fugate, Executive Director, of The Baum School of Art in Allentown
1. When did The Baum School of Art first begin working with Building 21 students?
The Baum School of Art and Building 21 have been partners since shortly before the school opened its doors in 2015. We were lucky to have some community members connect us in the early days, and Building 21 Founder Chip Linehan and I immediately saw the opportunities to develop a unique program for Allentown students in the visual arts.
2. How have grants from The Rider-Pool Foundation improved that relationship? What do the funds allow Baum School to do with Building 21 that it wasn’t already doing?
When we plan a program, we start by brainstorming ideas and we don’t allow ourselves to limit those ideas by constraints of any kind. We consider all of the things we’d like the students to have a chance to do, create, and learn without thinking about the budget. But eventually we have to come back to reality and develop a budget, which often means scaling back our ideas in order to best prioritize our funding.
Support from The Rider-Pool Foundation allows us to extend the length of our programs, offer more interesting programs, and reach additional groups of students. Students in our program have the opportunity to experience the kind of visual arts programs that most students won’t experience until college.
The Rider-Pool Foundation’s support helps us provide richer programming. Instead of a basic drawing class, we can offer figure drawing with a live model, we can offer fashion design, darkroom photography, mural painting, all of which are arts experiences that we’d have to scale back without the support.
3. How does being exposed to art and art-related careers as a first-year high school student help them become aware of what opportunities are available to them?
Most people have heard of the myth of the starving artist. However, many people, because of a lack of quality arts programming in schools, don’t realize how diverse, exciting, and lucrative a career in the creative industries can be. The arts are a several-billion-dollar industry in this country. Corporations now cite creativity and innovation as the skills they are looking for in the next generation’s workforce.
Being introduced to arts careers as a first-year student allows students to explore their talents, find their creative voice, and be introduced to a world of possibilities where their interests and talents intersect. Even if students are not destined for an arts career, seeing that broad horizon as early as possible can only help students on their journey to high school completion, and hopefully inspire an early interest in higher education.
4. What experiences have your staff witnessed with the students and their discovery process?
We have students who have become so engaged in the arts that we have awarded them scholarships to attend on weekends at the school. Other students have enrolled in our dual enrollment program for early college credit.
When Leo, a Building 21 student from Africa, recently participated in one of our student exhibitions, she said that Baum School is like another home to her. That’s the kind of impact that motivates our staff and faculty to keep expanding our partnership and growing as the kids grow and discover themselves. It’s inspiring to watch a group of 15-year-old students discuss principles of design with their peers and note that the program helped them understand teamwork, collaboration, and compromise.
5. Beyond the arts-related topics Baum teaches students, what else do they learn from your experiential program?
Students at The Baum School develop skills in creative thinking, problem solving, public speaking, teamwork and collaboration. They research, design exhibitions, gain college-level experience, and more. Students learn to express themselves, see a project through to completion, defend their ideas, and provide constructive criticism to their peers.
The arts provide a platform to build community too, and that’s one of the most powerful impacts of this program – that we are all working together to build and take pride in our community.