Arts Renaissance in Tuscaloosa Schools

Bringing the arts to Tuscaloosa-area schools.


Marysia Galbraith

Marysia Galbraith is a cultural anthropologist and associate professor at New College and the Department of Anthropology at The University of Alabama. She was a Fulbright scholar in Poland for the 2014-2015 academic year working on the project "Jewish Heritage in Poland: Remembered Pasts and Imagined Futures" and is currently working on a family memoir and an ethnographic study of heritage projects.

ARTS in the News

The ARTS program and the associated New College seminar New 490: Community Arts were recently featured in the UA College of Arts and Sciences College News. Here’s the article, written by Sara Beth Bolin:

New College Class Provides Online Arts Workshops

At the beginning of the semester, UA professor Marysia Galbraith had a plan for her community arts class. The New College class would visit Matthews Elementary biweekly, hosting interactive arts workshops for fifth graders. After observing and assisting for a few workshops, the college students would get the chance to lead their own workshops with lesson plans that they developed themselves.

For Galbraith, who is a potter outside of her duties as a New College and anthropology professor, bringing arts education to school is something that she sees as essential. She said many school districts don’t have the budget for thorough arts education programs, and she hopes her class can help elevate the importance of such programs for students.

“By revitalizing the arts, you build communities,” Galbraith said. “Through art, you can work with at-risk communities, with people of all different backgrounds and abilities, and through those relationships, you can create and promote community.”

The first half of the semester was incredibly successful for this class, according to Galbraith. But the COVID-19 outbreak changed the plan that Galbraith created for her students.

When Alabama schools closed in mid-March, Galbraith and her class had to re-evaluate what they thought was set in stone. After careful consideration, she decided that the best course of action would be to move everything online to provide her students a chance to share their skills, as well as give parents and elementary school students something fun to do while they isolate in their homes.

“There are a lot of kids out there, and they’re looking for things to do,” Galbraith said. “I think that the need that motivated the project and the class in the first place, which is that there’s not enough arts education in schools, is still present during this time. Kids still have a very limited exposure to arts. And so we can still provide them that service.”

With help from the Center for Instructional Technology, the community arts class’s students have created instructional PDFs and video tutorials for kids of all ages to access and use during the stay-at-home orders around the country. These tutorials will be distributed by the school, but are also available on their blog. Galbraith was initially concerned that the sharp shift in curriculum would be difficult for her students, but she says that they stepped up to the plate and exceeded her expectations.

“I have a really great group of students,” Galbraith said. “They’ve been fantastic at thinking on their feet. And they’re not afraid to try new things. So it’s been wonderful. It’s so sad that we weren’t able to continue the face-to-face workshops. But I think that this is just another layer of their ability to think creatively, and I’ve been impressed with their ability to do that. They really like the challenge.”

To access the workshops, visit the community arts class’s website.

Spring 2020 Workshop: Face Jugs

ARTS workshops begin again this Thursday, January 28 from 1-2 PM.  We need volunteers. You will assist the workshop leader by guiding students as they complete the activity. This week, students will make face jugs out of clay. 

Face jug by folk potter Reggie Meaders

Please contact Dr. Marysia Galbraith ( if you want to sign up to volunteer. There will be two per month over the course of the semester, and they will be on Thursdays from 1-2. 

Holiday Ornaments at Matthews Elementary

I want to send out a special thanks to all of the UA students who volunteered this semester, especially the amazing group from my class  New 238: Honors Cooperation and Conflict. They took responsibility for most workshops, from the original project idea to scheduling to leading the activity and helping the children.

And I’m not alone. 2nd grade teacher Ms. Presley writes, “Thank you for the art activity. The students loved it!!!!!!!”

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Fossil workshop postponed

We hope to reschedule today’s fossil workshop for October 14. Stay tuned!

Pet Rocks

ARTS kicked off this semester with a pet rock workshop for the 3rd grade at University Place Elementary School. The kids were fully absorbed as they painted and decorated their rocks with googly eyes, pompoms, or feathers. Then, the children named their new pet and wrote a story about it. Students in New 238: Honors Cooperation and Conflict planned and led this workshop. It was a great success! Here is Molinda with her pet rock Sally!

Molinda with her pet rock Sally!
Molinda with her pet rock Sally!

ARTS in the News!

The ARTS program was featured in the Tuscaloosa News today! The 5th grade at Matthews loved getting their face jugs back:

Arts Renaissance in Tuscaloosa Schools program sparks kids’ creative juices

Thanks to writer Mark Hughes Cobb and photographer Michelle Lepianka Carter!

Face Jugs!

The creativity of children never ceases to amaze me. Here is a sample of their inspiring work!

Volunteers Needed: Face Jug workshop THIS Friday, Feb. 26

We need a few volunteers to help with a pottery workshop, where children will make face jugs! This is always one of their favorites, and a lot of fun for volunteers, too. Please let Mindy ( or Marysia ( know you can come. It’s Friday from 1-2:30 at Matthews Elementary–come to the school at 12:45 to help set up.

Face jug by folk potter Reggie Meaders


Mural Project

Do you like to paint? Volunteers are needed to help paint a mural at University Place Elementary School. Send us your contact information  under “get involved.”

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