John Dewey, the American philosopher and reformer, once said of education that, “The ideal school has a museum at its heart.” It’s a sentiment that creative writing teacher Anne Wenzel reminds herself of each day as she walks through the doors at Arkansas Arts Academy.
One of a growing number of exceptional educational options for families across Northwest Arkansas, this K-12 public charter school in Rogers allows students to focus and deepen their talent in a number of artistic mediums, including visual arts, dance, music and more.
The school also integrates the arts into core curriculum—including math, science and literature—which has been shown to help students retain information and make deeper connections to the source material. This leads to higher test scores, expanded opportunities to learn and a greater awareness of what each student can contribute to their community.
Since the school’s founding, the Walton Family Foundation has supported Arkansas Arts Academy as it has built out its programming and campus.
Anne, who teaches creative writing, says her goal as an educator is to “have students walk out of school living active, creative and symphonic lives. Whether they do that as engineers, teachers or artists, is really beside the point. Creativity infuses every discipline, every act, every moment of perception.”
As part of its arts integration programming, Arkansas Arts Academy enlists the help of regional institutions like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which has hosted the school’s “Night @ the Museum.”
There, students from elementary, middle and high school have brought their burgeoning creative skills to life for parents and visitors through performances and student-led discussion on works in the museum’s permanent collection.
Brooklyn Herzig, who studied at Arkansas Arts Academy, said events like "Night @ the Museum" help students showcase their art in new and creative ways. Brooklyn, who focused on dance, collaborated with creative writing students to improvise a dance based on their poetry.
“Most kids don’t have the opportunity to work with such a huge, incredible museum ... and do the art that we love. It's the most fantastic experience.”
Brooklyn, who moved to Northwest Arkansas with her family, found a school—and a region—that could help her achieve her goals as an artist and beyond.
Arkansas Arts Academy, Brooklyn said, “enriched my life … and helped me grow as a person.”
Brooklyn also found that Northwest Arkansas is filled with opportunities for creative students.
“It's very diverse. It has lots of people from different cultures, but also just many different opportunities for hobbies and anything that you love to do. Everybody has something that they can enjoy here.”
The depth of opportunity also impressed Anne, a New York City transplant.
“There is so much excellence in the school system,” she observed. “I'm a musician, so I know a little bit about music programs across the different schools, and it amazes me what's going on here.”
Of her students, Anne believes that Arkansas Arts Academy has given them the freedom to tap into their potential.
“I had a teacher say once that arts are essential to our mental health … I see students blossom over the course of the year as they explore the arts, whether drawing or writing or guitar or choir or theater. I see their presence and commitment grow, not only in their respective arts but also in their lives.”
Beyond what she sees in the classroom, Anne is grateful to have found a new home in Northwest Arkansas. “There's so much culture and something very nurturing and nourishing about this landscape.”