Arts advocate Judy Sizemore wins East Kentucky Leadership Award

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Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 12:16 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - The arts are all around us, but for many children who grew up like Judy Sizemore, art programs or art-related curriculum did not exist in schools.

“This is probably part of the reason why I have the passion that I have,” said Sizemore. “I actually didn’t have art in elementary school, I didn’t have music in elementary school.”

Sizemore grew up with artists and storytellers in her own family that helped foster her passion for the arts, but ensuring that other kids were also exposed to the arts at an early age eventually became Sizemore’s life mission.

“I always wondered why we didn’t have things like art and music and storytelling as part of our school life,” she said.

Sizemore began her professional career as a freelance writer and glass artist.

“Like a lot of independent artists, I had to invent my own career path to just make up, how do you pursue your passion and still support your family?” said Sizemore.

It was not until being asked to do an art project with her daughter’s first grade class that she fell in love with arts education.

“I loved seeing that spark in the kids’ eyes,” she said. “I loved seeing them get excited about, you know, writing poetry or writing stories.”

It was then that Sizemore discovered the role of a ‘teaching artist’ and also learned more about the programs that support them, like the Kentucky Arts Council.

“I got really involved with the Kentucky Arts Council and ended up being what they call a Regional Coordinator. So, I would work with schools and organizations throughout Eastern Kentucky to try to figure out how to integrate the arts more fully, more completely, into the community or into the school room,” said Sizemore.

For many years, Sizemore held various roles within the Kentucky Arts Council, Kentucky Educational Television, the Mountain Association and Partners for Education at Berea College, where she helped to create several programs to better arts education throughout the region.

“You need to know the story of people,” she said. “You need to know the story of how people interact, how people change, how people hopefully become better and more inclusive and I think the arts are a very strong component of that.”

Sizemore has even received awards for her endeavors such as the Hambleton Tap Award for Creative Teaching of Kentucky History in 1994 and the Governor’s Award for Arts Education in 1998.

Today, Sizemore still visits classrooms in Perry and Knox counties to take part in writing and storytelling activities with students.

In the future, Sizemore hopes that arts appreciation will echo throughout these mountains for many generations to come.

“This is a wonderful and incredibly rich region artistically and culturally and I’m just really thankful to get to play a role in it,” she said.

Sizemore said that teaching Kentucky students about the arts is still as exhilarating for her as it was when she first began.

She added that she is excited to be recognized for her work and to receive the 2022 East Kentucky Leadership Award for Private Individual.

“I have no idea how that happened, but I’m honored,” she said. “I’m deeply honored.”

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