Posting Date: March 9, 2009
Kennesaw State University alumni launches "Firstfire" program
By Michael Ruther
Iia Owens with the kiln she purchased
for her school using a grant from Lowe's.
Photos provided by Iia Owens
Poole Elementary students and parents painting their clay creations together as part of the "Firstfire" program.
In less than two years, alumna Iia Owens (art, 2004; art education, 2007) has already made a huge impact as an art teacher at Poole Elementary School in Paulding County. With a $5,000 Toolbox Project Grant she received from Lowe's, she launched the “Firstfire” program, purchasing a kiln and 1,250 pounds of clay to give every student at Poole the opportunity to craft a clay vessel.
These vessels, once kiln-fired, were donated to various “valued but overlooked” members of the community. They were given to every bus driver, teacher and administrator at the school and to each member of the Paulding County Board of Education and the Paulding County Police Department. The vessels were also donated to various nursing homes and churches, to the local Boys and Girls’ Club, and to many other organizations in the community.
In addition, Owens held a “clay day” for everyone at the school who wanted to participate in the creation of something from clay. Many teachers and office staff members got involved with the students. Owens held a raffle in which students purchased tickets to raise funds for the Poole Elementary art department. Thirty-four toys were given away to students and $900 was raised for art supplies. She held a holiday party for the students and parents who had the most participants in the raffle, during which they painted their ceramic pieces.
Owens was inspired to launch this project because she “knew that the Poole Elementary art program needed a kiln. We had a bunch of clay from the year before that the art teachers were unable to do anything with. I wanted the kids to have an experience working with clay.”
The program was called “Firstfire” because the participants were expected to donate their first clay pieces, and it was many of the students’ first exposure to working with clay. Owens recalls being impressed by the generosity of her students, encountering little objection to giving away the first clay vessels. Through the funds raised by the program, the students will have a later opportunity to create vessels to keep.
|The students gave their first pieces to individuals at the school and in the community as tokens of appreciation.|
She attributes some of her success to her education at Kennesaw State University. “I had awesome teachers in the art education and visual arts programs. They really encouraged me and reinforced what I already knew to be true: if there is anything you want to accomplish, your age or background doesn’t necessarily matter. If you are persistent, you can accomplish it.”
Owens remains active in the art community by being involved in local art shows in Paulding County. She has also taught art at the Boys and Girls’ Club in the area and she encourages her own children to participate in art shows. She has several ideas for expanding the art programs at her school to ensure that “every child has exposure to and can create art.” She was recently honored as Paulding County’s Teacher of the Month.