James D. Blanchard, a nationally acclaimed art educator who taught in the Clover Park School District for 27 years, has died of pneumonia at age 77. He passed away Oct. 14.
Blanchard is credited for organizing the nation’s first Very Special Arts Fair for the Handicapped in 1975, which took place at Clover Park School District’s Clarkmoor Elementary. The event, supported by the National Committee, Arts for the Handicapped (known today as VSA Arts, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) went on to be duplicated in all 50 states and 40 different countries.
Blanchard, who organized the fair for 13 years, was honored with the title "Art Educator of the Year" from the National Art Education Association in 1980, for his work as regional coordinator and evaluator for Very Special Arts Festivals and his service to the National Committee, Arts for the Handicapped. It also won him the honor of being one of the very first recipients of the Margaret K. Williams Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in 1988.
Locally, Blanchard will be best remembered as an outstanding art teacher and art supervisor for the Clover Park School District where he taught from 1962 to 1989. He dedicated his life to teaching the values of art to students of all ages. In fact, the elementary level art curriculum Blanchard created nearly three decades ago is still in use today.
During his tenure, "Mr. Art Education," as he was known in teaching circles, inspired thousands of students to realize "Without art, life would be dull." And that "All the arts are vitally important to make up a whole person." His favorite and most notable mantra was, "You gotta have art."
Born in Centralia, Blanchard was a graduate of Centralia High School and Centralia Junior College. He mastered as many art forms as possible in order to teach a wide variety of disciplines. "The hardest part about teaching creativity, Blanchard would say, "is keeping your own technique from appearing in your students’ work. I want to encourage students to develop their own ideas."
Blanchard is also recognized as one of the organizers of the first Junior/Senior High School Art Show at the Western Washington Fair in 1987. Parade-goers will remember him for designing more than a dozen floats for the Lakewood Summer Festival, during the ’60s and ’70s, accumulating nearly every Daffodil Festival Parade trophy in the process. A rare few may remember Blanchard for his huge illuminated holiday murals that adorned the old Clover Park High School Library building every winter.
"For more than 25 years, Jim Blanchard touched the lives of Clover Park School District students with his creativity, enthusiasm, and humor," said Kim Prentice, Director of Community Relations for the Clover Park School District. "The impact of his contributions to art education at local, state and national levels was great. Jim Blanchard’s name will always be associated with Clover Park School District’s fine arts program at its best."
A memorial service will be held Nov. 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mountain View Celebration of Life Center, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. SW.