Words just weren’t enough.

To show how much fine arts teachers matter to this community, SupportTheArts (STARTS) and the Arts Roundup opted to host a special luncheon in their honor instead. 

“Because of you folks, the children in this county are getting exposure to the arts, and I know a lot of times you don’t get the help that you feel that you need and deserve from the powers at be,” said Glen Belcher, director of the Cumberland County Community Band and STARTS.

The event took place Sept. 20 at the Crossville Outlet Center, with 20 of the school system’s fine arts teachers in attendance. In addition to accolades, they were treated to a buffet catered by Lefty’s Barbeque and door prizes donated by local organizations and businesses.

The teachers took turns standing for recognition as their area of expertise was called, which included visual arts, band/classroom music, chorus and drama.

Those who came out to support the teachers were also recognized. They included members of the Cumberland County Community Band; Arts Roundup; Cumberland Woodturners; Cumberland Mountain Storytelling Guild; Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association; Southern Stars Symphonic Brass; Plateau Women’s Chorus; Fairfield Glade Rotary Club; Art Guild of Fairfield Glade; Write Away; and the Cumberland County Playhouse. 

Also in attendance were Darrel Threet, 3rd District county commissioner and South Cumberland Elementary principal; and Brenda Preuss with Framing + Art and Craft Supplies.

This was not the first time such a luncheon has been held, but it was the first time it coincided with a scheduled in-service day for the teachers.

The Arts Roundup, which offers a networking opportunity for cultural arts organizations,  first hosted a luncheon for the teachers at the Depot three years ago. Although attendance was good, they were not able to schedule the luncheon on a date when all the teachers could attend.

“For some time STARTS and the Arts Roundup Group have wanted to host another Fine Arts Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, but at a time when all 25 CCSS fine arts teachers could attend. With Dr. [Rebecca] Farley’s help and the cooperation of all 11 principals, we now have that opportunity,” wrote Belcher in his invitation.

Farley is the pre-k and elementary instructional supervisor for Cumberland County Schools.

He added, “Not only will this be an event to recognize you, it will be an opportunity for us as fine arts educators in concert with retired and active adult artists in the community to jointly make a statement in support of fine arts education.”

One way individuals are choosing to show their support is through the STARTS program, he noted. The nonprofit was founded in 2016 as a result of a survey assessing the needs of local fine arts teachers. It showed that additional funding and support were needed for all of the arts programs and that many in the community were willing to be a part of an organized effort to provide that support.

Belcher encouraged the teachers at the luncheon to reach out to him with their needs.

“There are people in this community that have given generously and will continue to give generously, but they need to know what they are giving to,” he said.

Approximately $50,000 in cash and goods have been donated to STARTS since its founding four years ago.

“You are appreciated more than you know,” said Belcher. “I think there are hundreds, hundreds of people in this community that believe that art education should be a fundamental part of a child’s education … A few of them, a few of us, are with you today, and we really appreciate you.”

Missy Wattenbarger may be reached at mwattenbarger@crossville-chronicle.com

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