Yo Art! Project partners with schools, produces Piccolo Spoleto exhibit

Yo Art! project aims to enhance learning at Title I schools by injecting arts programming. Participating students contributed works for a Piccolo Spoleto Festival exhibition at the Charleston County Public Library.

No one would be surprised to find courses in filmmaking, computer coding and fashion design at high schools and colleges, but in Charleston an innovative initiative is introducing these subjects to students attending to Title I schools. The Yo Art! project, whose goal is to enhance student learning with media arts programming is led by Gene Furchgott, who launched Yo Art in 2007.

Student work is on display at the Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun Street through June 8, part of event programming embraced by the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

So far, Furchgott has worked with 12 public schools, using his background in photography to ignite the project.

“I know being a photographer and teaching that kids can really engage quickly with the media arts,” he said. “They learn how to combine visual with text, so it’s a multi-level learning process.”

Yo Art! benefits from experienced and motivated teachers, Furchgott said. Some instructors come from the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College. Dennis Huguley teaches a course called Basic Industrial Design, which shows students the history of auto design and how to sketch automobiles. Before teaching, Huguley worked at General Motors for more than 30 years.

Corie Hipp is a photography instructor. She says students gravitate towards teachers with worldly experience.

“The students love it,” Hipp said. “We are visitors from an outside place, so they are interested in what we have to bring. They (the students) have been taking it very well.”

In 2010, Nickelodeon awarded “The Big Green Help” grant to Yo Art! for its teaching of environmental stewardship through the arts. In 2012, and in subsequent years, the program was recognized by the Charleston County School Board and district superintendent for its effectiveness in arts intigration.

The partnership between the public schools and Yo Art! has proven fruitful, Furchgott said.

“It is important to keep high demand,” he said. “Schools want more courses and hopefully we can bring that to them. Its an exciting time.”

Kevin Garcia is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.