Lawrence Arts Center’s Linda Reimond inspires current, former students after 25 years as preschool director

Reimond is inaugural Larry Arts Award winner

Linda Reimond is director of the preschool program at the Lawrence Arts Center.

Linda Reimond

  • Position: Preeschool director at the Lawrence Arts Center
  • About: For 25 years, Linda Reimond has taught preschool at the Lawrence Arts Center utilizing a sensory-based teaching mechanic that engages children though sight, touch and sound. Reimond won the 2011 Governor’s Award for Arts-in-Education and is the first winner of the Larry Arts Award.
  • For enrollment information: Visit the Lawrence Art Center’s preschool page.

It doesn’t take long when talking to Linda Reimond to become inspired, just five minutes will do.

Reimond, the preschool director at the Lawrence Arts Center, founded the program 25 years ago and has been a guiding light in early childhood education in Lawrence since. Because of her dedication, investment and love of both her students and her work, she is our inaugural Larry Arts Award honoree.

“Linda is a masterful and loving teacher who is also part of our leadership team at the Arts Center. She provides the expertise we need when the topic is early childhood arts education, certainly, but Linda has been an integral part of the entire life of the Arts Center for 25 years,” said Susan Tate, LAC executive director.

When she began teaching preschool at the arts center, resources were limited to adult-sized chairs and tables. She had to ask around for a piece of carpet for the kids to play on and she held her first cookie sale at the arts center in hopes of making enough to buy a set of large, wooden blocks. Now, the preschool program features two classrooms, a full staff of employees and offers both morning and afternoon classes.

Sitting in one of Reimond’s classrooms, it’s easy to see how a preschooler could get attached to the place. A large, vibrantly painted rainbow hangs high on a wall, a guinea pig stirs in his cage, begging to be played with and there are stations all over the room, each dedicated to the senses and designed to nurture creativity and learning through play.

This is a method that has served Reimond well over the years and she has plenty of stories about how students made use of these stations in interesting ways. Two cousins had an intelligent conversation about the use of color as they mixed new hues before together applying them to a piece of paper. By the time the boys were done mixing, the canvas was one uniform color — brown.

Another example she fondly cites involves two young girls that were taping together pieces of scrap paper from the junk box, a collection of odds and ends found in one corner of the classroom. Reimond was assisting them by cutting tape, but when she couldn’t cut fast enough, the girls took over, taking turns pulling tape to length and then cutting.

“It was intrinsic motivation. They didn’t need me. They knew they could do it themselves. That’s what we want,” Reimond said.

Former students have gone on to become national merit finalists and attend schools such as Brown, Ringling College of Art and Design, and, of course, Kansas University. Reimond still keeps up with a few students including Genevieve Busby, now a senior at Brown.

“As a young student at Linda’s preschool studio (I prefer studio to classroom), I was invited to engage in cooperative creation with my peers. During creative play, I forged my most enduring impressions of the dynamics of cooperation, creative production, and inquisition into the mysteries of being,” Busby said in her letter to the Kansas Arts Council that recommended Reimond for the 2011 Governor’s Arts Award for Arts-in-Education.

Reimond won that award earlier this year and while she’s proud of it, she would rather talk about what it means for arts education.

But that’s Reimond through-and-through. Her eyes light up when she talks about her students, their projects and the creative ways she interacts with them whether it’s by racing toy cars dipped in paint down a paper slope or having her students punch a canvas with paint-covered boxing gloves, but ask her about herself and her own accomplishments and she is reticent, displaying the kind of humility that is often read about, but rarely witnessed.

“How could it not be worth it? At the end of my 2-year-old class when we’re singing songs and singing good-byes, and all of a sudden someone comes up and gives you a big hug, how could it not be?”

In celebration of the preschool program’s 25th anniversary, a special alumni event was hosted by the Lawrence Arts Center on April 16. Art from past preschool students was on display, as were many of the games and activities Reimond, her staff and students played throughout the years.

From April 11 to April 17, artwork from current preschool students was on display in the main gallery, hung at eye-level for the young artists. Work from past students filled the small gallery in an exhibit called “Still Inspired,” an appropriate title, not just for the students, but for the teacher who has fostered so much creativity.

“We’re not going to turn out many Picassos or Beethovens or things like that, but if they’re creative thinkers and problem-solvers, which the arts teach, they’re ready. They’re ready for life,” Reimond said.