2020 National Award of Merit for Youth Art Education: Warren County Teacher, Shelly J. Clark

The National Art Education Association along with the Council For Art Education has named Shelly J. (Bushong) Clark, of Bowling Green, KY, to receive the National Arts Education 2020 award of merit for her work with Youth Art Education during the 2021 NAEA national Convention in March. Shelly Clark was quoted to saying, “YAM is so important to me because kids need time to be kids, act like kids- think and play and discover like kids. I think it is so important for students and youth to find the joy in searching for answers, creating, and discovering. Students are taught through the arts to appreciate that we all learn through all of our attempts- rather we succeed or fail, we have learned. I think Youth Art Month reminds everyone that we were all young at one time and still are inside. Youth Art Month is a celebration of the world's future for these students are the next generation who will be solving life's problems and creating the world of tomorrow for all of us. After 26 years of being an art educator it is thrilling to see the impact my past students are making as adults now. Celebrating Youth Art Month instills confidence in dreams that can be made to come true if they only keep trying!” Clark was also presented with the NAEA leadership award in recognition of her exemplary professional service the past two years as the Southeast Elementary Director for her 10 state region.


Clark is the daughter of Sam and Sue Bushong (Warsaw, In.) and Bonnie and Gene Nicolai (Goshen- formally Milford,In.) and the daughter-in law of Carolyn and Roger Clark (Bowling Green). Growing up in the northern Indiana farming community Clark was influenced by her relationships with her teachers and the passion that they shared throughout her education in the Wawasee community school system. She stated that she always knew she wanted to be a teacher because of the innovational creative teachers she experienced, as well as, the social and emotional support that

made such a difference in her life from teachers like Carolyn Baker, Terry Iden, Karl Keiper, and Cindy Bryant just to name a few. Another large influence in her life Clark says besides her faith, was the Elkhart county fair program in Goshen, Indiana. Her 10 years as a 4-H participant in various projects showed her the value of relationships with others and that to su


cceed one must continue to pick yourself back up again even when you fall, get trampled by an animal, or loose. It was more about figuring out how to dust yourself off and find the rainbows at the end of the storms- how to respond to life’s disappointments. For her that came in the form of life long friends and community relationships that carry over even today living in south central Kentucky because of new innovations like social media. According to Clark students need now more than ever to be shown that even at a young age perseverance and choices are always theirs to make. Clark stated, “ The arts are a safe, emotional,

and positive outlet for feelings, thoughts, and expression where students’ answers do not always have to match their peers. The arts teach students to celebrate, challenge, and respect their differences while problem solving and sharing what they think and feel.” Clark ha


s been a Kentucky resident since obtaining her Bachelors of Art Education at Western Kentucky University. She has since obtained a Masters degree in Art Education from W.K.U. in Bowling Green, Ky. She has taught Visual Arts for Warren County schools for over 25 years in various levels, but mostly as an itinerant in elementary with approximately 1200 students. Shelly Clark is presently teaching at Briarwood and Richardsville Elementaries. Clark says her students continue to inspire her through their excitement of discovery and connections even through this year

of upheaval. Clark states,” The inspiration and the creativity is absolutely contagious between my students and I. We embark on self-discovery, critical thinking, and problem solving that are infectious. The social and emotional outlet for my students has been empoweri


ng for them.” Jennifer Sims, the KYAEA president- elect, was not surprised by this award and reports,” Shelly Clark is a passionate arts leader to her students and has also been an arts advocate with legislation both at the state and national level as an art teacher delegate. Her work through the Kennedy Center

has helped to integrate students with special needs into the creative process, and she has presented and shared these unique ideas and solutions at many different venues.”



As a Western Kentucky University graduate alumni Shelly Clark continues to share the “Spirit that Makes a Master” as a teacher and community member. Her fellow teachers see the outstanding job she does and the impact of her teaching. Andrea Nance, the music teacher at Briarwood states, “Shelly Clark is very generous of her time and talent with any teacher or student that needs help rather it be in our school, district, state, or nationally. I am amazed at her dedication for the arts. She shares her passion with students and our community daily.”


As Shelly Clark is a true advocate for the arts, the National Art Education Association has named her to receive the 2020 National Arts Education award of merit for her work with Youth Art Education. This prestigious award, determined through a peer review of youth art programs in the various states, recognizes the exemplary contributions, service, and advocacy annually.




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