Beverly Browne, a newly retired elementary school principal for nearly 20 years, comes from a long line of teachers. She, herself, started out as a classroom teacher before moving on to become a principal. Through her many years inside schools – and most of them in Chatham County – she’s seen first-hand the critical impact art can have on its pupils. She values arts.
Beverly’s love of the arts, in all forms, was nurtured from an early age. Her father was not only quite artistic, but he was also an art teacher. With this at her core, she has become a huge proponent of exposing children to the arts and allowing them to explore their creative sides.
We enjoyed sitting down with Beverly to talk about her support of the arts, and specifically, the Chatham Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools initiative. We hope you will enjoy understanding the reasons for her generosity here and perhaps, be inspired to give.
What does art mean to you? It is not just someone who draws or paints. It’s multifaceted. It includes dance and music. You can’t have one without the other. I don’t ever want the arts to fall to the background. Being artistic is a sign of multiple intelligence. You can’t just say that a child is great in math. If that child also loves art, they love drawing – you can’t separate it from his or her other intelligence.
How does art motivate you or affect you on a daily basis? I’ve never been afraid of dancing or singing in public. My husband would think something was wrong if he didn’t hear me humming or singing while I’m walking around my house. My mother used to tell people that I was in her lap dancing before I could walk! I dance at the drop of a hat. I’ve always enjoyed it.
Was there an arts program in your school as a child? Chorus! I joined the band because I wanted to go to football games and travel. But chorus was my thing! The Middle School chorus teacher started working with a group of us in the community in the fifth grade. Then in Middle School, she became my chorus teacher. She taught us to love a variety of music. She built us up! We were in this tiny school, but we were out there winning big competitions. I tip my hat to her.
What would you say to young people who want to be involved with the arts? Take a chance! You can’t fail at something you’ve never tried. If you give something an opportunity, you might find it’s something you’re really good at. Don’t look at someone else’s ability to do ballet; perhaps you’re great at tap dancing. Look at your OWN ability.
Why do you think the arts are valuable in Chatham County? I have had the advantage of working in different areas of Chatham County. In terms of appreciation for the arts, Chatham is not the same across all areas of the county. Some schools have kids who have been more exposed to the arts than others, but kids LOVE art. The Artists-in-Schools initiative is so important because it means kids get to participate in the arts and parents get to see it. Parents see their children get excited about being part of an arts program and then they want to do more with their children and contribute more to the arts.
Is there a specific element or program from the CAC that most excites you and why? Yes, the Artists-in-Schools initiative. I especially love the programs that are interactive between the artist and the kids. The best reaction I’ve seen was with performance artist, Mike Wiley. He didn’t select the kids who always got picked by their teachers. He just selected any kid who was raising his or her hand to participate. It allowed children who don’t always get the recognition to shine. They were engaged and excited.
Why did you decide to give to the CAC? Mine is two-fold. My father was an art teacher for 32 years and I would go with him each year to set up the art extravaganza where kids showcased their work. I was always amazed by the kids’ talents. My father tried to nurture that in kids because he said many times, a kid who wasn’t athletic had an artistic nature. My father was so artistic, himself.
I was also involved in the arts. I was in band and chorus. I realize now that most of the time, athletics get the majority, so I wanted to help spotlight the arts. I have been really impressed with the Artists-in-Schools initiative. I always see kids enjoying the program and learning from something they’re participating in. It’s important to nurture the arts, particularly in Chatham, because the arts are a venue for kids who may not have a voice. They need great experiences in arts.
What would you say to others who feel there are more important causes to give to? I would say that most people feel it’s important to read and write, but it’s just as important to nurture someone’s artistic ability. If you look at some of the smartest people in the world, like Albert Einstein, they started as artists, sketchers. If they couldn’t have started that way, they wouldn’t have made it. People who are always creative and excited about the arts are necessary to make our society a better place.