Steven Cunningham, professor of English as a second language: language as art

The idea for Steven Cunningham’s endowed chair project to bring Brazilian artist Clovis Junior to work with students inimg_4494 an elementary school was inspired by Cunningham’s campus president, Dr. Kathleen Plinske. Dr. Plinske forged a partnership between the Osceola Campus and Central Avenue Elementary School about two years ago when she was asked if Valencia could send some students to volunteer as tutors. “We were told that the biggest need of the elementary school students was just to have someone who cares about them. As a professor of English as a Second Language, I was aware that Central Avenue had many students from many different cultures who did not speak English as their native language. I thought, what better way to boost self-esteem than to connect them to a successful artist from another country? At the same time, we could stimulate creativity and provide affirmation of the wonderful diversity in their classrooms.”

When he contacted the school to see if they would be interested in the project, they were very interested and informed him that this particular elementary school just had its art program reinstated that year! Cunningham sent the art teacher some information on the artist and his art.

When they aimg_4482rrived on the appointed day, one of the students couldn’t hold in his excitement and shouted, “It’s the famous artist from Brazil!” Clovis worked with five different art classes throughout the day. First, he talked about his art and taught the kids a few phrases in Portuguese. Then the students created their own paintings as he did a demonstration painting that he left with the school as a keepsake of his visit.

They had each student sign their painting. Clovis signed them too animg_4445d had a picture taken with each student who had a signed photo release. One pupil asked me where she should sign her painting. “I told her, “You are the artist. You can sign it wherever you want.” She responded, “I’m an ARTIST?!?””

It was a very successful project and a fulfilling and rewarding day. “I felt like we had really captured the true intention of the Tupperware Corporation Endowed Chair in Community Quality by investing in the students at Central Avenue Elementary School and making them feel proud of themselves”.”