Leading Arts Education Above and Beyond
July 2021 Issue
By Carrie Hirsch
Photography by Butch Hirsch
Our gorgeous slice of paradise not only attracts visitors, it also attracts the best of the best art educators. Alana Adams was born in Newnan, Georgia, a small town south of Atlanta. She received her BFA in Art Education at Georgia State University with intensive studies in ceramics and sculpture.
“My husband and I decided to move to the beach over 15 years ago, and we landed in Hilton Head. I can remember exactly when I started working here at the Arts Center because it was the date of our first wedding anniversary!” Alana recalled. She joined the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina staff in September 2006 as Manager of Education Services and was promoted to Director of Education two years later. Since 2017 she has served as Senior Director of Education.
In looking back on March 2020, no pandemic was going to put the kibosh on Alana’s education programs that provide services for thousands of students and teachers in Beaufort County and beyond through the Arts Center’s resources and grants. She created a makeshift studio in her home, set up the cameras and lighting, and Cyber School of Art was born. She immediately began creating virtual art education content for teachers who were suddenly thrown into teaching students remotely and were in need of programming.
“I decided that I was quarantined with a child who loves art, so I had one student. We created programs, and for each one, I created an art lesson and a video that we could share immediately,” Alana explained.
Along with her then third grade son, Jasper, who assisted with demonstrations, Alana created arts-integrated video lessons that incorporated standards from science, math and language arts. The lives and works of artists, such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Kandinsky, Kahlo and Ringgold, were featured, inspiring students to create their own works.
In preparation for the fall of 2020, Alana was busy transforming the artist-in-residence and field trip programs into virtual formats, enabling students to interact with a multitude of creative talent with the click of a button from their own homes. Since the schools were on lockdown, the Arts Center partnered with the Center for Puppetry Arts to provide a puppet show and live talkback with Pete the Cat author James Dean. American Heroes showcased the lives of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and other school programs included a virtual residency with artist/illustrator Tim Davis of Highlights Magazine and Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre. Kennedy Center Partners in Education guest artist Baba Bomani brought creative ways for teachers to teach children the process of writing through hip hop. “The biggest event of the past year was in celebration of Black History Month with Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts in which we served over 600 students and their families for an entire week with the Virtual Family Gullah Festival. For the Family Zoom Art Night, we brought in multimedia artist Amiri Farris, and also worked with sweet grass basket weaver Michael Smalls and other prominent Gullah/Geechee preservationists,” Alana said.
Collaborating and partnering with numerous organizations, including the Hilton Head Motoring Festival and Concourse D’Elegance to implement Michelin North America’s inaugural Junior Design Challenge, participating in Coastal Discovery Museum’s Family Day and bringing music and movement exercises to teachers through Youth Opera International, provided additional educational outreach experiences to thousands of children.
“Alana is a rock star! She is bold and creative and charges every new opportunity head on. Aspiring artists on Hilton Head Island, both young and less young, are lucky to have Alana as a leader in the field of arts education,” said Jennifer McEwen, Town of Hilton Head Island’s Director of Cultural Affairs, who worked with Alana on the popular Lantern Parade.
Two of her many professional accomplishments include being awarded the 2009 Art Educator of the Year and the honor to present at the highly competitive 2018 National Art Education Association Conference in Seattle, WA. “And the most special thing about the award was the Arts Council of Beaufort County commissioned artist Hank Herring to make the handmade plaque,” said Alana.
Alana is “beyond thrilled” to invite students back into the Arts Center’s spacious, light-filled, Disney Studio for in-person learning experiences for summer camps. “We’ve got an eclectic selection of themes from artistic journaling to comics and cartooning, along with a week-long theater camp for two age groups,” said Alana.
What brings her joy? “My joy – kids and arts – always number one. Inspiring kids to make art and the process of making art makes me happy,” Alana smiled radiantly.
Married to: Jason Adams
Son: 10-year-old Jasper
Fur Family: 1-year-old Ruby James, an American Brittany
Hobbies: Camping, tennis, jewelry making, off-roading
One thing she always has with her: Her old-fashioned date book. “I can’t get used to digital calendars. I like to highlight, checkmark, color code and doodle my way through the day.”
Next on her list: I look forward to one day making a trip out west with my family in our RV!
Civic Duty: Currently serves as PTO President at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts.