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Promoting the Arts in a Remote, Dusty, West Texas Town

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 11/13/2017

Although we are in a small, far west Texas border town, and one of the poorest school districts in Texas, creativity abounds in Presidio!

The population of the extremely remote Presidio is a little over 5,000. Located within a stone’s throw of Mexico, our closest Walmart, mall, or movie theater is four hours away. (Not that it is a bad thing!) However, in this little, dusty, west Texas town, the students excel in the fine arts. We have excellent band, drama, mariachi, folkloric, and fine art programs in our district.

How did this happen?

The Presidio Fine Arts Festival. About 10 years ago, we decided to showcase these amazing students, their creativity, and their incredible talent through an annual Fine Arts Festival. Many buildings in downtown Presidio are empty, and we thought they would be an awesome place to put the artwork of all the students in the district (as well as former students and local artists).

During the festival, we block off the main streets and set up a stage that runs nonstop from 12 p.m. until 2 a.m. with nothing but dance groups and bands—all from the area. This is an event that the whole town, and now out-of-towners, comes out to enjoy! Every year this party grows. It’s a beautiful celebration of life, culture, and talents that are found in our unique area of Texas. The next Presidio Fine Arts Festival will be held on April 5–7, 2018. Everyone is welcome to come!

Social Media. Thanks to the growth of social media, I found a new way to promote the success of our students and share what we are up to in the classroom. We have our own Facebook page that showcases students’ work. We have thousands of followers! Social media both helps build students’ confidence and promotes their work. They LOVE having their art posted on the page and seeing all of the comments. The internet also makes it possible for students to enter competitions and showcase their work in places that they didn’t have access to before.

A Supportive Community. If I didn’t have the total support of the superintendent, the school board, my principals, and the students’ families, then none of this would have happened. They have given me the freedom and trust to let these kids spread their wings and fly.

It is amazing to be a part of this program. The kids here are family-oriented, good kids. We are 99.9 percent Hispanic, and many of our students come directly from Mexico. Some have had to leave their families in Mexico to come (legally, of course) to school in Texas and get a better education. Often, they do not speak English, and language can become a barrier. In fine arts, this is not the case because music, art, and dance are universal languages.

The students have found a place where all can succeed and excel—no matter where they come from.

We have had so many success stories from the fine arts department here. We have had artwork displayed at the Saatchi Gallery in London, England. A high school art student won the Congressional Art Competition, and her work hung for a year in the Capitol in Washington, DC. Students have won and placed in state and national art competitions for the past several years. Many of our students have gone on to become wonderful artists in their own right.

Besides all of this hoopla and exposure, do you know what the best part is? We have so much fun in class together. They make me laugh every day. That is why I show up to school and still find my job fun!

See the Winter 2017 issue of ATPE News for more stories from Texas educators about how fine arts programs have impacted their students and their schools.

Laurel Holman is a 1994 graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor’s in art education and has been teaching art ever since. She has taught all levels, from pre-K through 12th grade. Most of her teaching experience has been spent in Presidio, Texas, but Laurel also taught all around the state and even spent a year in Alaska. She is a single parent to a now-almost-grown senior in high school and is also a practicing artist. Some of Laurel’s artwork can be seen on her Facebook page. She states that she likes to incorporate her other work experience and hobbies, such as managing ranches, cowgirl and cattle work, horseback riding, and doing extra/background work on a few television series, into her own artwork and her classroom.

“I truly still enjoy what I do and get excited about what the kids are doing in my classroom and seeing their growth and creativity. They keep me laughing and young at heart! My advice to my young, aspiring students and artists is to never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something! There will be some people that will try to dull your shine. Don’t let this happen. Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, and always, ALWAYS do the right thing—even when nobody is watching.”

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