Gateway: Living

Artists In Schools project extends Two Waters Arts Alliance reach into classrooms

Two Waters Arts Alliance artist Anna Bradshaw, top center, shows brush technique to her daughter Rainie, 6, right front and Sophia Hanson, left front.
Two Waters Arts Alliance artist Anna Bradshaw, top center, shows brush technique to her daughter Rainie, 6, right front and Sophia Hanson, left front. Special to the Gateway

A week ago Wednesday, I had a time of my life in the Key Center Branch of the Pierce County Library.

Two Waters Arts Alliance held classes in watercolor painting for a delightful collection of wee kids and, with but rare exception, I don’t believe they were aware I was in the room — so engrossed were they in absorbing their lessons. It was part of TWAA’s Artists In Schools project.

Among TWAA teachers were Anna Bradshaw and Adria Hanson, a professional portrait artist who teaches Foundations of Drawing to young and old through TWAA as well as studio private lessons and, this month, class lessons at the Mustard Seed Project.

Hanson explained that Two Waters Artists In Schools is a twofold program. Classroom teachers call upon artists in the “Residency” program to flesh out specific topics within the classroom environment. For example, a musician brings songs of the time to life in a history lesson, or a visual artist expands the world of a plants in science. The artist functions as a resource, much like a film strip or textbook, under a teacher’s direction illustrating how art and core studies interrelate.

“I think the art painting is very cool and very good, and awesome!” reported Lakebay 4-year-old Sunday Bradshaw. Sunday’s mom, TWAA member and AIS Teaching Artist Anna Bradshaw, works primarily with paper-related mediums and teaches a wide variety of classes for ages 3 to 85. She channels her enthusiasm for art exposure of all kinds for all ages volunteering as TWAA’S current grant writer and is on TWAA’s Funds Development and Programs Committees.

“I always enjoy learning about the different art tools that art teachers teach,” declared Longbranch resident Sophia Hanson, 8.

Artists In Schools, a program founded and directed by Paddy Gilson, has been going strong for 14 years, explained Hanson.

“The current director of AIS, Debra Ady, contacts all the teachers in Evergreen, Minter Creek, KPMS and Vaughn to invite teaching artists into their classrooms,” she said. “The teaching artists create projects based on plays or speakers which are art minded. This year’s speakers fall on to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).”

There are six artists going into schools with the AIS program.

“We painted, and then put salt on it, spritzed it with water, and when it had dried all the way, we took the salt off ... it made spots in the paint. It looked really interesting!” said Rainier Bradshaw, 6, a Lakebay homeschooled first-grader.

Hanson, a professional portrait artist who lives in Longbranch, teaches Foundations of Drawing to students of all ages and teaches a basics of drawing class at the Mustard Seed Project, which received a grant from the Greater Gig Harbor Community Foundation providing funding.

Her son, Liam, 6, a first-grader, declared, “I’m never bored when making a drawing or reading a book about Legos!”

Hanson and Bradshaw hope many interested people will attend TWAA’s “Colors of Autumn” fundraising gala evening of juried art, music, cocktails, heavy canapés, the Peoples Choice Award, student art exhibition, and both a silent and a live auction from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn. Proceeds support TWAA’s Artists In School programs.

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Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at