by Carson Uthe
Volunteer and former Eastern Iowa Arts Academy student
I wish someone would have told me I would be beginning one of the most enriching and impactful experiences of my life by stepping foot into the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy for the first time. I would have made a much bigger deal about it. Instead I casually strode in with my friends, excited and expecting a good time. I threw my backpack against a wall and chose a chair lining the paint filled table- already munching on the snack the incredibly kind teacher had offered. I guess this first entrance was organically predictive of the time I would spend at EIAA, it was as if I was coming home.
Nobody likes middle school. In fact, most people downright despise it. I was definitely in that latter group. Now of course there was some good times and experiences, but overall EIAA was definitely a shining, radiant light during those years. Before that first class was even finished, I was looking into what else I could do, and found many opportunities through the academy. I could tell that there was something special about this place and the people there, and I wanted to be a part of it. After that I completely immersed myself in various art and music classes, bands, teen hangs, performances, and fundraisers. This absolute immersion, or maybe obsession would be a better word, became some of my absolute favorite memories and experiences.
I learned much more than the class descriptions said I would through all of these amazing opportunities. Of course, I gained incredible practice and instruction in both the visual and performing arts through these classes. The arts have always been an enormous passion of mine, and these classes only continued and furthered that love. What was not promoted when signing up for classes was what I believe to be the most important part of these classes- the priceless life lessons and experiences gained. The EIAA is so much more than just a place for kids to make music and do art in that respect, it is a place for them to gain much-needed support, make lifelong friends, and learn about themselves and the world around them. It is through the tireless efforts of some of the greatest teachers and staff I’ve had the opportunity to come across that lucky individuals in our area receive these experiences. Without their dedication and passion for this program, countless participants like me would never dream and achieve what we have.
That passion was something I got to experience first hand in the amazing experiences I’ve recently had the past few summers at EIAA. While I haven’t been able to participate myself in classes or experiences due to my heavy involvement in school activities, I was given the incredible opportunity to volunteer as a teacher’s assistant for several classes each summer. To spend time in the building that helped form me so much, watching children get that same foundation, and maybe even having a part of it myself, is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever had the chance to do. Whether it’s been helping them construct a dollhouse out of recyclable materials, blow bubbles for them to draw (and chase), or just cleaning out their paint brushes when they need it- every moment is one that I hope brings them half as much pure happiness as it does me.
At this point I could insert any number of incredibly profound quotes by people who know much, much more about life then I do. They would eloquently tell how impactful the arts are- but I think that if you really want to see it, go spend some time at the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy. Whether you listen to teenagers rocking out, adults sipping coffee and doodling, or small children playing with clay, you’ll see people’s lives being enriched and changed for the better. You can’t help but smile and want to be a part of it- I know I always will be, whether as a participant, a helper, or just a supporter. I will always have a piece of my heart there, that’s what home is for.