Arts are Alive at Ocracoke School

Sundae Horn
Arts are Alive at Ocracoke School

Island non-profit Ocracoke Alive will begin an arts education partnership with Ocracoke School in January.

Due to budget cutbacks at the state level, the Hyde County Board of Education made the difficult decision to eliminate the arts education program at Ocracoke School this year. Luckily, another organization can step in to do what’s right for Ocracoke kids.

Ocracoke Alive’s mission is to enrich our community with artistic, cultural, and educational programs. Realizing that the island’s children would benefit from even a small amount of art exposure at school, OA board members brainstormed a creative way to bring art into the classrooms.

“We believe that in our quickly changing society, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking are two of the most critical survival tools a youngster can possess,” said OA board president David Tweedie. “A fully-balanced, creative individual can bring a fresh perspective to whatever field and path they may choose in life.”

Ocracoke Alive is seeking artists and performers to help them provide weekly classes to pre-K through 8th grades. They will be reaching out in person and through their artsy networks to find local and off-island artists for the program. The topics are wide open: crafts, painting, weaving, pottery, music, dance, drumming, heritage crafts, culinary arts…. It’s a blank canvas and imagination is encouraged! Ocracoke Alive will consider proposals for hands-on classes, demonstrations, studio tours, and/or performances.

“We’ve had a great art program here,” said principal Walt Padgett. “And the kids love it. So we’re very appreciative of Ocracoke Alive and David Tweedie for this opportunity to have art during the school day.” 

“We’re trying to incorporate art as much as possible,” said first grade teacher Alice Burruss of her colleagues and herself. “But that’s not part of my curriculum and I can’t put in as much as the children need. We’re sad that we don’t have an art program, but that’s reality and we’re trying to be positive. It’s wonderful that Ocracoke Alive is taking this on.”

Ocracoke Alive artists will meet with the students on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each grade level from pre-K through 8th will attend a 45-minute class or performance each week from January 27th – June 4th. OA would like to hire two artists each week – one for pre-K – 3rd, and one for 4th – 8th grades.

Are you an artist with a hankering to visit Ocracoke in the off-season? Would you like a week of R-and-R on a remote island? Do you like kids? Visiting artists (and up to three guests) will be compensated with a free week’s stay on Ocracoke (valued at $800) where they can enjoy peace, quiet, communing with nature, and sharing their skills with eager students. Local artists will be compensated with a per diem. (Income in January on Ocracoke! Woo-hoo!)

“I’m extremely excited about the artists that will be coming out of the woodwork to be a part of the program,” said committee member and local gallery owner Marissa Gross. “The community aspect of people coming together to support and promote the arts is great.”

The program is still in the planning stages and Ocracoke Alive welcomes input from community members who would like to help. They also welcome sponsors to help fund this special and much-needed program. The arts partnership committee includes David Tweedie, Desiree Ricker, Crystal Canterbury, Marissa Gross, and (former art teacher and current 5th grade teacher) Kitty Mitchell. Check out for more information. 

Principal Walt Padgett and Hyde County Schools superintendent Randolph Latimore are supportive of this new collaboration – and why not? It provides something that they can’t. 

“We appreciate their recognition of the importance of arts in our community,” David said. “At the same time, Ocracoke Alive wishes to make it clear that they see that it is the responsibility of the state of North Carolina to provide this valuable curriculum as part of a standard education for all levels of North Carolina’s students.”

Walt Padgett agrees.

“We’ll continue to ask every year to get art back in school,” he said. “We need help from the legislature, and the legislature we have right now is not a friend of public education.” 

Ocracoke Alive’s officers and board members are: David Tweedie, Tom Pahl, Gary Davis, Kati Wharton, Crystal Canterbury, Allison Moote, and Desiree Ricker.

Find out more about this and other programs at

Ocracoke Alive’s general membership meeting will be November 18th at 7pm at Deepwater Theater. Come out for some tasty dessert and learn more about what this organization is up to! 

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