School honored as arts pioneer

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com Pierce Street Elementary School teacher Miley Wise and some of her students unveil a steel guitar that they painted and will be placed on the school's grounds. It was the school that inspired the painted the guitars around downtown Tupelo.

Thomas Wells | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Pierce Street Elementary School teacher Miley Wise and some of her students unveil a steel guitar that they painted and will be placed on the school’s grounds. It was the school that inspired the painted the guitars around downtown Tupelo.

By Riley Manning

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Pierce Street Elementary School is the latest location to receive one of Tupelo’s landmark metal guitars.

Pam Maddox, co-director of the grant responsible for the guitar, said the school deserved recognition as a pioneer in arts-integrated curriculum.

“And we wanted a way to connect Pierce Street to the city,” she said. “Tupelo has so much culture as a rich art city, and students need to make that connection.”

In the 1990s, Pierce Street was selected as a test school for arts-integration by the Mississippi Arts Commission. The idea was that teachers could use examples in the fine arts – visual arts, drama, etc. – to explain other concepts in their instruction.

According to Lynne Mize, music specialist at Joyner Elementary and primary grant writer for the Whole School Initiative grant, only one school in each congressional district was chosen to participate.

“Pierce Street was the only school to proceed through the pilot program, through the initiative stage, all the way to become a model school,” Mize said. “At the time Pierce Street had the lowest socio-economic students of the district, but the external evaluators of the project, who looked at schools across the nation, said Pierce Street was light years ahead.”

Pierce Street art teacher Miley Wise said decorating the guitar has been a collaborative effort with her students. The guitar is festooned with images of movie tickets, vinyl records, and, of course, Elvis.

“They’ve all seen the other guitars downtown, so it’s been a great opportunity for open dialogue,” Wise said. “When it’s installed, there will be a plaque at the foot of the guitar giving facts about arts integration.”

Kenneth Goralcyzk, principal at Pierce Street, said bringing a guitar to the school had been in the works since he came to the position in 2012. He said he was excited to see it come to fruition, and said he hoped it will be installed by April.

riley.manning@journalinc.com