One of the primary purposes of the Northwest Alabama Arts Council (NWAAC) is art education. Since its inception in 2004, the NWAAC has instituted programs involving students from kindergarten through the twelfth grade in our local schools. Some programs are short, while others have now grown into full-time programs.
The vast majority of funding for the NWAAC art education programs comes from proceeds of our two hosted festivals – the Jerry Brown Arts Festival (JBAF) and the Buttahatchee River Fall Festival (BRFF). Monies raised within the Marion County area stays in the Marion County area to support our students and our schools and our communities.
Resources for our art education programs are provided by many of our festival artists through the arts council’s "Visiting Artists Program," in which JBAF and BRFF artists return, oftentimes from many miles away, to our schools and share with students their special skills and talents, providing students with opportunities for hands-on exposure to art forms often unknown to many of those students.
Another resource for our arts council and students is the Continuing Education Department of the Hamilton Campus of Bevill State Community College. Partnering with Bevill State, the NWAAC and BSCC work together to place certified art instructors into local schools to work with students who show interest in the arts.
Created in 2007, a program for elementary school-age children entitled "Molding Hearts, Hands & Minds" gives 25 students the opportunity to work with Jeff Wilburn, a tenth generation potter and son of ninth generation and Smithsonian potter Jerry Brown, and exposes these young students to the techniques that have been used in the pottery business over ten generations of the Brown family. The Brown family is the only known traditional potters still using a mule-powered pug mill in the entire United States.
These 25 students receive three hours of personal instruction, including the production of their own, individual piece of pottery by working with Jeff on his wheel, putting their hands in his; and then with their own hearts, hands, and minds, mold the clay into their artistic masterpiece.
Participants in the program have their pieces of pottery displayed at the Jerry Brown Arts Festival, held annually the first weekend of March in Hamilton. After their works are judged, the Top 5 participants are selected and awarded scholarships by the NWAAC to the Bevill State Community College Arts Camp scheduled for June of each year.
Schools whose students have participated in the program include: