Four Miami-area artists recently joined an annual migration of artists to Quartz Mountain for a weekend of intensive study.

Laura Edington and Connie Benedict represented Will Rogers Middle School in Miami and Trinda Crow and Amanda Richards from Wyandotte High School attended the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute (OFAI), a series of retreats in the literary, visual and performing arts taught by nationally-renowned artists.

“OFAI is undoubtedly the best educational experiences I have had in my 12 years of teaching,” said Benedict who teaches art. “I love it!”

OFAI allows Oklahomans to study with renowned artists without traveling far from home. True beginners and professional artists alike can find OFAI workshops that fit their expertise and interests in a variety of classes including theater, dance, photography, painting, music, writing and more.

OFAI is held at the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center in southwest Oklahoma.

“Last year’s experience convinced me that I need to attend every year,” said Edington, an English teacher. “I went back to my classroom rejuvenated and filled with exciting strategies to use.”

One of the things Edington did when she returned to school was initiate a poetry club as an extra-curricular activity.

“The students appreciate the poetry that we discuss,” she said. “It’s stuff we don’t have time to deal with in our regular classes.”

Crow, an art teacher, also found the program very beneficial.

“I took a monolithographic workshop and it was awesome,” she said. “The well known artist who instructed the program teaches a master’s degree program at a college back east.

“He showed us how to take small things and tweak them to make a world of difference. I took that make to the classroom where we’ve already done a double monolithographic class.”

Crow expressed gratitude to her principle, Marcia Kruse, for her support of the art program at Wyandotte High School, which is in its second year.

Richards, who teaches vocal music, took a conducting class.

“She’d come in to lunch and talk about the small things she tried from the workshop and how well they worked,” Crow said.

All Oklahoma public school educators automatically receive full scholarships to attend OFAI, including tuition, room and board. Miami-area educators were sponsored by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, ConocoPhillips, and the Raymond and Bessie Kravis Foundation, with additional support from the Oklahoma Arts Council and various private donors. Educators receiving ConocoPhillips scholarships received a $250 stipend for classroom materials provided by ConocoPhillips.

The office of Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson also sponsored Miami teachers through settlement funds received from a class-action lawsuit.

“The Fall Arts Institute offers a wonderful opportunity for public school teachers to further their artistic training and to learn techniques that they can bring back to their classrooms,” said Julie Cohen, Oklahoma Arts Institute president. “Each year, about 35,000 public school students benefit from their teachers’ participation in our workshops, so our program has a profound impact on education in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Arts Institute is a private, non-profit organization developed in 1977, with a vision to cultivate established and emerging artists and educators through art workshops, immersion and awareness. OAI administers a fine arts program for talented Oklahoma youth and a series of continuing education workshops for adults.