Beaumont Magnet Academy moves arts to the playground with $100,000 grant
Knoxville News Sentinel. Esther Roberts. August 09, 2017.

Humans love to create beauty. Composers, artists, musicians, dancers, sculptors, photographers – the list of various artistic expression is endless. Children are the fountain and source of creativity.

Beaumont Magnet Academy is the only arts magnet school in Knoxville. The BMA curriculum is unique in that all BMA students participate in classes in visual art, theater, dance and music, along with library time and physical education.

Cheryl Burchett, Visual Arts Teacher at BMA, explains. “We are working hard to integrate the arts into everything we do at BMA.” This includes finding a way to “connect our students’ love of the arts with their enjoyment of playing outside. We wanted our playground to mirror our curriculum and to move our arts curriculum outside.”

BMA entered a competition sponsored by Farmers Insurance for the “Thank America’s Teachers Grant.” Several BMA teachers had received individual teacher grants from Farmers in past years, including Burchett, Kasey Powers, Lydia Lane and Samantha Wise. These individual grants were in the amount of $2,500 per teacher.

This year, BMA applied for Farmers’ “Dream Big” Grant. The “Dream Big” grant is worth $100,000. The grant is awarded via a two-step process. First, Farmers reviewed every grant proposal and selected 15 national finalists. Second, the finalists participated in a community voting program. After becoming a finalist, BMA received widespread support via the community voting program. BMA won the $100,000 Farmers “Dream Big” grant.

Great Schools Partnership was selected as the fiscal agent for the Farmers grant. Ben Epperson, GSP project manager, is in charge of stewarding the grant funds.

“The entire space was designed, for free, by Hedstrom Design,” said Epperson. The new space includes many new features for the student artists to enjoy. Bird on the Wire Studios and Jaccard Construction are building a new outdoor theater stage. Paulk & Company are creating playable benches.

Drainage grates presently on the BMA campus are being converted into rain gardens. “One will have an elevated platform with outdoor musical instruments, the Beaumont ‘Sound Garden.' The other rain garden will be surrounded by platforms and benches for an outdoor classroom and performance areas,” says Epperson.

More than 20 new shade trees have been donated by Trees Knoxville. Additional plantings will be installed once cooler autumn temperatures arrive.

An outdoor tile mosaic, designed by Bailey Earith and installed by Exact Tile, will enhance the risers of the playground steps. Greg Tune, a metal sculpturist, has created numerous functional pieces to enhance the new grounds. Even the school walls will be upgraded – painter Curtis Glover is adding two new murals.

The entire project is designed to be inclusive to those with physical impairments. Both the outdoor stage and amphitheater feature access ramps, and the musical instruments will be at ground level so all may access them and enjoy them.

Along with helping the BMA students be more creative and expressive through their new outdoor creative play facilities, the new facilities will be open to the Beaumont community. Says Burchett, “The BMA playground [will be] a safe outdoor play space for the Beaumont community.” This community access supports the underlying twofold purpose of the Farmers grant – to help the school and to help the community.

The official ribbon cutting on the BMA project will be Nov. 2 at Beaumont Magnet Academy.

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