North Carolina Arts Council Grant Supports Military-Connected Students

Military Kids Color Our Community artwork
The journey for a military kid is filled with good-byes. Goodbyes to friends as they change schools 6-9 times during their K-12 school career, three times more than their civilian peers. Goodbyes to parents as they leave for a deployment or training. Goodbyes to extended family who often live thousands of miles away from the current duty station. And, with goodbyes there are always hellos! Hello to another new school to navigate and identify with a new friend group. Hello to the same school subject but taught from a different curriculum. Hello to new teams and new coaches. Hello again to a parent returning from deployment.

Goodbyes are hard, but so are hellos! This is the constant state of flux that our military kids exist within. Layer these transitions on top of the constant changes of protocol through the global pandemic and one can plainly see the elevated level of stress that our military kids may experience. The knowledge gained and resilience demonstrated by our military kids as they “reset” again and again certainly shapes their perspective of themselves and their community.

Through a grant from the NC Arts Council, Arts in Education program, students at Havelock High School, in Havelock, NC, home to MCAS Cherry Point, were encouraged to explore how their personal experiences inform their perception of self and their environment and then apply these perceptions to a self-portrait. Portraits from all students were combined into a large movable mural that will be displayed locally for the remainder of the school year. To reveal the connection between the military and civilian communities, portraits in the mural were designed to interact with each other.

The grant funded time for artist Lee Hood, a US Army veteran and owner of Large Brush Strokes in New Bern, NC, to teach specific skills to carry out the project in collaboration with Havelock High School art teacher, Theresa Holtz. Initially students worked with a school counselor and the military liaison counselor to think about how their experiences shaped their views of themselves and the environment, then they participated in building basic skills required for portraiture with their art teacher. Mr. Hood involved the students in all phases of the project and instructed students in artistic techniques using a digital app. Ms. Holtz also provided instructional support and curriculum alignment.

The month-long project promoted healing through art and encouraged resilience among students while building community between the local and military populations. Learning to use art as a means to process experiences and gain perspective will serve our students throughout their school, college and work careers.

Craven County Schools is thankful to the NC Arts Council for recognizing the needs of our military-connected students as they navigate through their unique military-family lifestyle and also the importance of community connections for all students. As part of the April Month of the Military Child, the exhibit will be housed at the Craven Arts Council and Gallery’s Directors Gallery in downtown New Bern. The exhibition will be in the gallery until April 30th. The hours are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

By Jennifer Wagner, Director of Public Relations