Sen. William Haine visits with art education students

Two art education students and one professor met with Sen. William Haine (D- Alton) earlier this month during Arts Advocacy Day in Springfield.

Art education students Emily Pokojski (left) and Shelby Fleming (right) attended Arts Advocacy Day in Springfield last week with art and design professor Justin Sutter. Pokojski and Fleming visited with Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) during the event. Photo courtesy of Sutter

Art and design professor Justin Sutters, also adviser for SIUE’s student chapter of the National Art Education Association, said the experience was “really rich” for Emily Pokojski, senior art education major, and Shelby Fleming, sophomore art education major.

“I looked back at my own schooling and I’ve been in the profession for 20 years, and I’ve never had an experience like this,” Sutters said. “… I thought they were pretty privileged.”

Arts Advocacy Day developed from a conference during the fall semester seeking more of a voice “in arts advocacy at the state level,” according to Sutters. Part of the day included scheduled and unscheduled visits with legislators. The meeting with Haine was scheduled and intended to make the student chapter visible and to “make [Haine] aware of some of the initiatives we’re working on and some of the concerns we have as constituents,” according to Sutters.

They touched on subjects such as teacher education and state level funding issues.

“We just were looking for some assurances or just to voice our concern about the cuts in public school education and how that might affect our profession,” Sutters said.

They also discussed SIUE’s growing arts program and its new facility, according to Sutters.

“We have a very burgeoning student group that’s vibrant, so we wanted to sort of highlight,” Sutters said. “That we didn’t want to just go there and point out what we saw as deficiencies, but also sort of state that these are things we feel are potential and things we bring to the region.”

The student chapter, according to Fleming, has volunteered at two daycares in the Edwardsville community teaching art and attends regional and national conferences. SIUE will host the regional conference next year.

Haine, according to Sutters, “seemed supportive” of the actions taken at SIUE.

“You could tell he thought very highly of the arts. [He] spoke to his own personal experiences,” Sutters said. “When we told him about our new building here he had mentioned that he was involved in some legislation related to it.”

Fleming said they hope to get legislators “more involved in the arts so they can experience the same things we do every day.”

During the advocacy day, students were also trained on how to advocate for the arts, according to Sutters. Fleming said the significance of meeting with Haine for the student chapter is “letting them be in our shoes.” Legislators who attended the training addressed issues and told students to invite legislators to events to get them involved locally, according to Fleming.

“[We’re] definitely trying to get the community more involved,” Fleming said. “They talked highly of that. If you have the support of the community, then it transfers over to your legislator, then it transfers over to your legislator and then they can transfer it over to their government.”

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