Leon County Schools visual arts teacher receives Opening Nights at Florida State Arts Advocate Award

Opening Nights at Florida State University has selected Sally Ash, a visual arts teacher at Woodville School, as its 2021 Arts Advocate Award recipient. This award recognizes a professional educator who demonstrates exemplary work with the arts by leveraging local arts resources.

“Ms. Ash is most deserving of the 2021 Arts Advocate Award,” said Michael Blachly, director of Opening Nights at Florida State University. “In her time at Woodville, she has worked tirelessly, leveraging community grants to fund projects, seeking out traditional and non-traditional exhibit spaces and forging partnerships with community organizations and professional artists to enhance the arts curriculum for her students.”

Woodville Principal Lisa Mehr nominated Ash for the award for continually going above and beyond classroom expectations to provide outstanding arts opportunities for her students.

“Teachers like Ms. Ash, who let children experience the magic of the arts, can transform the trajectory of a child’s life,” said Rosanne Wood, a member of the Leon County School Board. “Exposure to the arts is critical to a well-rounded education.”

With more than nine years of classroom arts teaching, Ash uses the arts as a visual tool for teaching and learning collaboration, life skills and leadership traits. She also utilizes engagement in the arts to reinforce lessons featured in other disciplines.

“As fine arts instructors, we are ultimately fostering leadership skills that produce a community of citizens who value and demonstrate creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, perseverance and responsibility,” Ash said. “I have witnessed time and again how the fine arts help educators address children’s needs of self-actualization, self-esteem, love and belonging, safety, and physiological awareness. I am honored to accept the 2021 Arts Advocate Award and look forward to continuing this important and enjoyable work.”

(From L to R) Christopher Ash, Sally Ash, Award winner, Lisa Mehr, Principal at Woodville, Calla MacNamara Education and Engagement Manager
(From L to R) Christopher Ash; Sally Ash, 2021 Arts Advocate Award winner; Lisa Mehr, Principal at Woodville; Calla MacNamara Education and Engagement Manager.

Ash has spearheaded professional development opportunities for her Woodville students creating a 21st Century Art Careers Guest Speaker Series, featuring artists such as Nathan Archer, Lui Nan, Erica Passage and Janae Easton.

She has received grant funding from The Council on Culture & Arts, Radiology Associates and the Foundation for Leon County Schools to support innovative, high-interest classroom projects for her students. These projects include campus murals celebrating themes such as the intersection between art and music, using indigenous heritage symbols, Florida wetlands preservation and practicing positive character traits such as kindness.

Ash engages her students in the arts through projects such as Woodville’s popular painted rock garden, field trips to Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts and Mission San Luis. She also assigns in-class projects that have later been featured in public art exhibits at Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts, 621 Gallery, the Tallahassee City Hall Gallery, FAMU’s Foster Tanner, Woodville’s Founders Day Festival and various public library locations as well as multiple on-campus displays throughout the school year.

Thanks to Ash’s community partnerships, Woodville students’ art has been on display in Opening Nights in Class school shows at Woodville, and recently featured on WCTV as a part of the Leon County Public Library’s Viral Voices Campaign.

For more information, visit openingnights.fsu.edu.