Through the rest of March, Fort Loudoun Middle School students are displaying their art skills as the Loudon County Visitors Bureau’s artist of the month.

The bureau focuses on a different local artist each month. Rachel Baker, Visitors Bureau executive director, said the program has been a mainstay in the community for at least 10 years. The initiative started before she came to Loudon County.

“The mission is to help promote local artisans whether their art is available for sale or just for display,” Baker said. “We do like to be able to sell it just to help them, you know, because most artists are very proud of what they’ve done and want to do that. But like, for instance, the one that we had this past month and the one that we have this month are student art, so we want to showcase what local educators are (doing), how they’re using art to teach kids math or science or any of the subjects that they’re working with.”

The visitors center has a waiting list of local artists ready to showcase their work, but Baker said the schools have been a part of the program since before she got there.

Jennifer Chastain, art teacher at FLMS, believes her students always get excited for the showcases. She said it is part of her rubric as an art teacher to display her students’ hard work.

Chastain initially reached out to the visitors center about three years ago after hearing about the artist of the month program. Since then, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at FLMS have been showcasing their work.

Integrating cross-curriculum lessons is one of Chastain’s main goals in planning each year’s curriculum. In college, Chastain did her student teaching in a second- and fifth-grade class, so she is used to teaching the core curriculum.

“I’m always looking to connect with the core curriculum, and as teachers we’re always talking about what standards we’re teaching,” Chastain said. “… I’m in the process of writing next year’s (curriculum) and tying it to a theme.

“I teach all three grade levels the same thing so I know that this sixth grade group has had this type of lesson, and I won’t teach it again until they’re gone to the next one,” she added. “So I have these bigger projects that I love, and I know they work but I try not to reteach it to the same group of kids.”

Chastain said that this year’s theme is “language, literature and lettering,” and last year’s theme was math.

“So we’re starting at cave art, and we work out way into the beginnings of language,” Chastain said. “… Then hieroglyphics and columns and the way language comes through art and architecture. Then we get into literature and how we’re interpreting literature into artwork. … We talk about current and modern graffiti and Banksy, and how that works out in the community … is it illegal even though it might be beautiful and sometimes it’s not beautiful and all those different discussions.”

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