Arts in Education

Patty Carreras with Roberts Elementary’s 3rd graders.

Wildwood Park and neighboring schools, Chenal Elementary, Joe T. Robinson Elementary, Baker Elementary, Don Roberts Elementary, and Lawson Elementary are partners in a year-long, In-School Residency program supported by the Arkansas Arts Council. Students, kindergarten through fifth-grade, experience a curriculum of creative expression and environmental awareness with explorations through history, literature, music, theatre, visual art, world cultures, and science.

Arts in Education artists are in residence throughout the year and work alongside classroom teachers to incorporate the arts through a cross-curricular approach, expanding the school’s campus into outdoor classes at Wildwood Park. By engaging in a creative process that connects an art form and another subject area, students demonstrate understanding and meet evolving objectives in both. Since the first residency was launched at Chenal Elementary during the 2010-2011 school year, Wildwood has grown the program to include additional schools, Robinson Elementary, Roberts Elementary, Baker Elementary, and Lawson Elementary. 

For more information contact Sydney Hickok at 501-821-7275 or

Meet Our Partner Schools

Meet Our Artists

Kathleen Marleneanu

Kathleen Marleneanu is a professional dancer and teacher who believes education should inspire learners to fully realize their capabilities of creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving, which is facilitated by learning that is engaging and meaningful. Dance integration is a perfect conduit for this, as dance is a natural form of human expression, an active tool for exploration/discovery, and connects to any number of subjects. She wants to help students not only appreciate dance, but also create meaningful knowledge they can apply broadly, whether specifically curriculum-related or more generalized, such as interest in physical activity or emotional expression, or confidence in their ability to control their own learning.

As a resident teaching artist, Kathleen offers customized lessons that connect a target subject, standards, and/or theme to a dance style (Creative Movement, Ballet, Modern, Jazz, etc.). For example, telling the stories of Dr. Seuss through jazz dance, exploring identity through modern dance, or learning about the wind through poetry and creative movement. Her activities are designed to be engaging and flexible for learners of varying levels, founded on the basic elements of dance (Body, Energy, Space, Time, & Movement).

Currently, Kathleen dances professionally with New Creation Dance Company in Little Rock where she trains in Ballet, Modern/Contemporary, and Jazz, and performs throughout Arkansas and nearby states. Kathleen choreographs for the company, and also through New Creation, teaches weekly children’s classes, occasional company classes, and workshops around the state for all ages/levels. Her additional education experience includes teaching at various dance studios, designing and presenting educational programs for the Old Statehouse Museum, and writing curricula and teaching public school dance residencies for Arkansas Learning Through the Arts. She attended Henderson State University where she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minor in Dance. She additionally earned her Master of Education degree in Learning Systems Technology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Kai Coggin

Kai Coggin is full-time poet and freelance writer born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Southwest Houston, and currently resides in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She is a former 9th and 10th grade English teacher, who took her students outside for poetry and drum circles on the lawn, and built a life-size balcony and meter-stick-aluminum-foil-wrapped swords in her classroom for Romeo and Juliet. As a former teacher, Kai knows how important it is for students to be ENGAGED in learning. Her approach to an AIE residency is to supplement poetry or creative writing instruction with an in-depth, relevant and fun selection of well-known and obscure poets for students to study, hand-picked by her to pair with each age group.

Students will learn how to effectively READ and FEEL POETRY, how to unpack the poems for style, devices, meaning, and truth. They will also CREATE POETRY in a safe and judgment-free environment where their fledgling skills will be nourished and built up. They will read together and write together. Students will create chapbooks of their original work. By the end of the residency, the established trust between the students will foster performance and recital of poems.

In Houston, Kai was recognized as Teacher of the Year, District Secondary Teacher of the Year, and competed for Regional Teacher of the Year against 5, out of 85,000 teachers. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University.  Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Blue Heron Review, Lavender Review, Broad!, The Tattooed Buddha, Split This Rock, Yellow Chair Review, SunStruck Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Snapdragon, ANIMA, Elephant Journal, and many other literary journals and international anthologies. Coggin is the author of two full-length collections, PERISCOPE HEART (Swimming with Elephants Publications, 2014) and WINGSPAN (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016). Her poetry has recently been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry 2015. She teaches an adult creative writing class called Words & Wine.

April Gentry-Sutterfield

April Gentry-Sutterfield is a director, deviser, and educator who uses theatre as a tool for social justice, education, and community-engagement. April has over a decade of teaching experience in widely diverse settings including as a middle school drama teacher in Hot Springs, a community college theatre instructor at Pulaski Technical College, a seven year returning drama teacher for Arkansas Governor۪s School, and a teaching artist in preschool, elementary, middle and high school classrooms across Arkansas and Texas. As an educator, April enjoys adapting theatre exercises and techniques to meet educational objectives in non-theatre classrooms. She also enjoys mentoring drama teachers in best practices for the drama classroom.

As an artist, April specializes in devising using movement, improvisation, and writing exercises to collaboratively create original and adapted performances. April has facilitated students in the process of devising at Hendrix College, Arkansas Governor۪s School, and UT Connections Youth Theatre in Austin, TX. April has directed plays on the college and secondary levels. Elementary students across the state have seen April۪s children۪s play, Lily and the Apple Seed, as Wildwood۪s 2012 Art-to-Go tour, and she received a playwriting mentorship through the Playwright۪s Center of Minneapolis for her one-woman show, Sticky Thickets. April has published articles in “TYA Today,” “Stage of the Art,” and for the Community Arts Network. April has an M.F.A. in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Hendrix College.

Zinse Agginie

2008 Governor’s Award winner (AIE) Zinse, was born and partly educated in Ghana, W. Africa. He later moved to England where he studied Psychiatric Nursing and remained in that profession for many years. He is also a diploma graduate of the London School of Printing where he majored in Graphic Arts reproduction Technology. Zinse later moved to Arkansas where he has worked over the past decade as AIE artist. Zinse is also on the AIE roster of Utah and works there regularly as well as other states like OK, PA, VA WVA and TX. He has written and produced plays at high schools and colleges and is also a member of The Gathering, the AR African American Living history program. Zinse uses hand drums for his storytelling and also as a percussive symphony. Both the storytelling and rhythms can support areas of the curriculum –social studies, history, geography and even basic maths.

Patricia Carreras

Patricia Carreras has been working professionally in all types of theater for over eighteen years. She has an undergraduate degree in Theater and Film from the University of New York at Fredonia and a Masters of Art in Theatre and Film from SUNY in Buffalo, New York. Currently Patricia is working for the University of Memphis as an adjunct professor teaching aesthetic education to education majors. She is also works as an actor/director/writer and storyteller in Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alaska. Every summer, Patricia is invited to join the Alaska Theatre for Youth staff as a guest director, teaching artist and playwright. She also teaches at the Center for Arts Education summer institute in Memphis. Patricia has written and directed many plays, including her most recent work, “Say What You Mean,” a musical play about communication that was written in part by students nationwide. A teaching artist for over fifteen years, Patricia has shared her talents throughout most of the USA. She has written many one-woman shows that incorporate mime, puppetry and storytelling, each holding an aesthetic experience for learning.

Chris James

Chris James is a professional spoken word artist, playwright, author and teaching artist. He has been involved in Arts in Education since 2009. He is affiliated with organizations such as Thea Foundation, Arkansas A+, Wildwood Parks for the Arts, Arkansas Learning Through the Arts, Pulaski County Special School District, Pine Bluff School District, Pulaski County Youth Services and many more. Chris James has worked with hundreds of students throughout Arkansas. He has orchestrated school-wide and district-wide poetry slams and stage plays with schools and organizations. Chris is the Executive Director of two amazing programs; Poetry Saves Lives and The Roots Art Connection. He is also a member of nationally known poetry slam team, Foreign Tongues who ranked 2nd place in the world’s second largest poetry slam in 2014(Southern Fried Poetry Slam).

Kay Thomas

Kay Thomas, visual artist, received an M.F.A. in ceramics from Arizona State University. A veteran of over twenty-five years of visual arts residencies, Thomas has worked with diverse populations of students grades K-12 in school districts throughout the US. In addition to her residency activities, Thomas is a designer and presenter of a variety of art workshops in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. These workshops emphasize the value of the artistic inquiry process in developing new classroom teaching strategies and higher order thinking skills. Currently, Thomas is the Visual Artist/Consultant for Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council’s ArtsSmart Institute for Learning. Her work for ArtsSmart involves in-depth visual arts experiences for students in the classroom, professional development and classroom modeling for teachers in arts integration, and arts curriculum design for schools.
Thomas also continues to create and exhibit her ceramic sculptures that both celebrate and satirize in a very humorous way America’s obsession with celebrities, politicians, food, and pets. A secondary concentration in textile art has led to Thomas’ designations as both costume and set designer for multiple theatre productions. She credits her sense of humor and quirky outlook on life to her birth and upbringing behind the “pine curtain” in Texarkana, USA which is a twin city located directly on the state line of Texas and Arkansas.