Richard Oldham is an artist, a supporter of the arts and most of all, an advocate of fine arts education.
As the Frisco ISD director of fine arts retires, he leaves his mark throughout the District and the entire Frisco community. Over the last three decades he has been a classroom art teacher, spent some time pursuing his own dream as a stained-glass artist, worked for the City of Frisco as manager of public art, and as an administrator in FISD.
He began his career in FISD in 1990, when there were not enough secondary visual art students at Frisco High School to support a full-time art instructor. He worked with the yearbook staff, the Independent Study and Mentorship program and Academic Decathlon. In his early years, he packed his brushes and pencils in a suitcase and crossed the softball field, walking from the old high school (now Staley Middle School) to teach middle school art at Frisco Middle School (now home of the Student Opportunity Center).
Today, no one can imagine a Frisco ISD school without an art room and a music room, much less secondary schools without art studios, or band, orchestra, choir, theatre or high school dance.
Perhaps it is those early days of applying his knowledge and love of art in a variety of classroom settings that instilled his belief that instruction in the fine arts must begin in kindergarten and work up.
“Kindergarten is where the light bulb comes on,” Oldham said.
The arts curriculum in Frisco ISD has been a work in progress throughout his time at FISD and is foundational.
“When the light bulb comes on, we help it stay on. We teach about the arts from the bottom up instead of a top-down model,” he said.
Oldham is not one to think that art is only for some people.
“We are all natural artists until we move away from it,” he said. “Art is innate. We all need to be surrounded by beauty.”
Oldham says he has been blessed to teach and work in a district where parents support the arts in schools. The Frisco ISD community understands that fine arts curriculum develops the emotional skills that will make a difference in the adult world.
“We teach collaboration and creativity…how to work together in a group toward a common goal. Nothing teaches the soft skills of life better than the arts,” he said.
Oldham leaves the District confident that the curriculum and advances that have been made during his time in Frisco ISD will continue to develop in ways that help FISD students learn to serve others through being creative.
“We are blessed with the right kind of parents and the right kind of students. The kind of families who appreciate a well-rounded education,” he said.
“Art comes into our lives every day,” Oldham said, noting its ability to help students learn to express themselves in healthy ways. “We create, we make art, we make decisions about aesthetics, choices that involve creativity have to be made every day. “
Oldham has watched FISD grow from a District that hosted a one-night visual arts show to a District that has art on display in the FISD Administration Building for months at a time and a huge performance and concert calendar. The FISD Marching Band Showcase at The Star, the plans to introduce a District choir event, and the teachers who have worked to improve arts curriculum in all disciplines are just some of the achievements and planning he is proud to have played a role in creating.
Now with retirement in his path, he plans to be more creative, re-center himself, find his art roots and “just enjoy myself,” he said.