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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Art Provides Teacher’s Ticket to Africa

Teachers are usually the ones doling out knowledge.

But this summer, one Clinton County teacher will have the roles reversed on a grand scale when she travels to Africa to study art.

Anita Snyder, art teacher at Clinton Central Elementary, received a $7,500 Teacher Creativity Fellowship from Lilly Endowment, Inc., to fund the trip.

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Friday, March 12, 2004 By Martha Fulkerson marthaf*ftimes.com


“The endowment is for teachers who follow a passion, a dream,” she said. “When I was in college, I was first introduced to the art of Africa, but I only could see it behind displays and in books.”

Snyder plans to use the grant to study African art forms in Ghana.

“(Teachers) are invited to plan a summer or part of summer to follow a program of professional or personal renewal,” said Gretchen Wolfram, communications director with the Lilly Endowment. “Most of the time these teachers have interests that they just haven’t had a chance to pursue. We like to give them a chance to do that.”

Snyder will travel to Kumasi, Ghana for three weeks, from July 11-Aug. 2. While there, she will study textiles, pottery, bronze casting, wood carving and other art in the villages surrounding the city.

“She’ll have the opportunity to experience another culture,” said Ken Cushman, Clinton Central Elementary principal. “I see her being able to bring back the culture and see different ways other people view the arts.”

While she will be in the city as a student, Snyder will have the opportunity to explore Kumasi as a visitor. The city is located in the nation’s rain forest region, settled in the heart of what used to be the Ashanti Empire.


She hopes to take a tree top canopy tour and to see the Ashanti Palace located outside of town.

Snyder became interested in the trip after seeing a promotional e-mail, stirring the interest that had been there since she was a student at Purdue University.

After seeing the e-mail for the trip caught her attention, Snyder searched for ways to fund the trip, which will run around $7,000.

She found the solution from the Lilly Endowment.

“When I came across an e-mail for the trip, I thought I’d want to do that,” she said. “But I looked at the price and thought, “How am I going to pay for this? When I saw the endowment, I thought I’d put together a proposal for it.”

Snyder worked on her proposal in September and had a finished product by December.

She found out she had been chosen in February, in a fairly roundabout way.

“I found out probably the same day you did,” she said. “The superintendent (Dr. Gary Gilbert) got the press release and came down to tell me. I was very excited to find out.”

Coming back to Clinton County, Snyder hopes to bring back examples of African culture and knowledge of its art to her students.

“Part of the grant was that I’d do at least a nine-week unit on African art,” she said. “I’m really waiting for the experience to get a better idea.”

She also hopes to inspire her kids to expand their horizons.

“I think just me going in the first place, trying to pursue knowledge, is a good example for the kids,” she said. “ I’m really trying to bring to them that there’s more out there outside of Clinton County. I’m showing them to go for it, to learn more.”

Cushman added, “Being a small rural community, we don’t have those first-hand experiences.”