Perspective Online

Councilman, Artist, and Educator Shares Story

by Julie Lineback

Councilman, Artist, and Educator Shares Story

Councilman Gerald Byrd speaks to Cynthia Wadlington's class.

Carrollton City Councilman and Director of the Arts for All, Inc. Institute for Imagination Gerald Byrd recently visited the University of West Georgia’s College of Education and spoke to future teachers, imploring them to reach the educational and emotional needs of students through the arts. He shared personal experiences of using art, music, and drama to engage students in topics including literacy, science, and math.

“The arts make an enormous difference in the development of children,” reiterated COE Dean Dr. Dianne Hoff. “The College of Education enthusiastically supports the Institute for Imagination. It is a great opportunity for our students to become involved with the community.”

At the end of every semester, Cynthia Wadlington, an instructor in the Department of Learning and Teaching, invites a Carrollton community member who works and educates children in the field of art to speak to her class. Gerald has a history of integrating the arts into his classroom curriculum, the after school program at Carrollton Middle School, and parent/student nights as director of the parenting program at Carrollton Elementary.

“My students have been learning how to integrate fine arts and music into all areas of the curriculum to make education meaningful and interesting in the elementary classroom,” Cynthia said. “Gerald Byrd's testimony was truly an inspiration to each of them because his experiences brought ideas that they have been learning about to real life.”

Gerald’s wealth of experience includes years as a social studies and science teacher for the Carrollton City Schools. It was there that he began integrating art with the things he taught.

Councilman, Artist, and Educator Shares Story

Photo courtesy of Arts for All, Inc.

“Once, I did a nine week exam on Japan,” Gerald said. “The test was a clay test. They had to study the map of Japan and build the map from clay based on what they learned. I remember it being so successful.”

As an additional step to engage the community via the arts, Gerald founded Arts for All in 2014. Originally only armed with a van and art supplies, he began conducting mobile art classes in area parks and housing projects.

“God gave me a dream to take my creative ability, visions, connections, and talents out to dark places where people don’t have the arts and to schools where art has been cut out,” Gerald shared.

It was a success. With Arts for All’s popularity on the rise, Gerald opened up the Institute of the Imagination, a nonprofit organization that houses the program and reaches out to all ages and socioeconomic groups in the community at a low or no cost. He eventually left the city schools to operate the Institute for Imagination full time.

“There are fears of running a nonprofit and putting passion before common sense and to have the courage to do the things that your heart desires even though your brain tells you it wont work out,” he told the audience. “You have to take the leap of faith to do the unconventional, and that’s what I’ve done.”

He encouraged those in attendance to stop by the Institute for Imagination and lend a hand whenever they wanted to.

“Several students came to me after his visit wanting more information on how to volunteer with Arts for All,” Cynthia said. “It is very exciting to see university students connect with the needs of the children in our community.”


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Posted: January 27, 2016

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