Teacher Hood’s above-and-beyond art efforts recognized by Anne McKee Fund

BY TERRY SCHMIDA

KONK LIFE STAFF WRITER

Longtime HOB Elementary Art Teacher Ashlie Hood is happy these days.

It puts a smile on her face to know that her students have been able to work on and enjoy art projects at home while the Coronavirus keeps local schools shuttered–at least until the end of the current school year.

Knowing that many of her pupils will be hard-pressed to afford art supplies during the economic shutdown, she got creative with her fundraising. Thanks to cash infusions from the Anne McKee Artists Fund, among others, Hood has been able to  send art materials such as paper, pencils, crayons, pencil sharpeners, glue sticks, rulers, markers, and color pencils home with quite a few kids.

“The 25th Anne McKee Artist Fund not only supported the artistic endeavors of 15 local artists, writers and performers, they also chose to award a grant for a local art teacher,” McKee Fund board member Lucy Paige said. “Due to the current Coronavirus health situation that has caused our schools to close and left many children with lots of extra time on their hands, Ashlie Hood, Art Teacher at HOB Middle School requested funds to allow her to assemble and distribute art kits for students at home.

“’Artists Helping Artists’ is our motto so this is a wonderful way to support and encourage the young future artists in our community,” Paige added.

Besides the $250 from the Fund, notable contributions to Hood’s efforts have also been made by Lucy Paige, who gave $500, while the Florida Keys Council of the arts donated a $100 gift card.

Hood is in her second year of a Masters of Arts in Education degree through the University of Florida, while teaching  “I am working to provide my students, which is just under 500, with art materials to use during the quarantine and online schooling,” she said.

“I started when the quarantine began, after Spring Break, on March 16. I know the demographics of most of my students and know there is usually not extra money at home for things of this nature. Teaching art lessons online has been a challenge when trying to think of things they can do with possibly just a pencil and paper, if that.”

Doing what she can to alleviate and improve their learning process, Hood estimates she and colleagues like Sue Jolly have already filled and distributed around 100 backpacks, provided by HOB, with the aforementioned supplies to provide an opportunity for creative development and outlet for a large number of students.

With the grant money Hood plans to also send off paints and, her favorite medium, oil pastels, to her students.

“I took these backpacks on the bus that delivered the free meals to kids at Porter Place and George Allen,” Hood said. “They were also given out at HOB during the meal distribution each day, as needed. . .I was often asked by my students to borrow supplies pre-quarantine to either work on art or just for homework. These students are special to me in so many ways, I will do anything I can to promote them with an equal opportunity when it comes to my class and art lessons. I am honored to be supported in such a way by my island community.”

Established in 1994 by Anne McKee, a longtime Key West resident and supporter of the arts, the Fund assists talented individuals with qualified creative endeavors.  Since its inception, the Fund has awarded over $300,000 to visual artists, writers and performing artists living in Monroe County.

The Fund’s 2020 grant recipients include, for Visual Arts, Carol Bruno, Cricket Desmarais, Margo Ellis, Michael Marrero, Alisa Mealor, Gretchen Mills, Mathew Puppich, Kinga Tamas, Meggi Siegert, and Dawn Wilkins.

Literary Arts Grants recipients include Kim Pederson, Joanna Schmida, Marlene Koenig, and Amber Nolan.

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