Arts Education

From Kentucky to the Capital: Kentucky’s contribution to the National Christmas Tree

Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center staff members Rosemary Topie and Teresa McDannold were getting ready to travel to Washington, D.C., last week to attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, but ice and snow never make for good traveling conditions. Disappointed, they had to cancel their trip. Representing the state of Kentucky, 24 of the Christmas tree ornaments were created at Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center.

Located in Covington, Baker Hunt is a unique arts center. Spread out across five buildings, the 3.5 acres were donated by Margaretta Baker Hunt in 1922 to “encourage the study of art, education and science and to promote the good works of religion in Covington.”

The Kentucky Arts Council connects artists and schools each year to create ornaments for the National Park Foundation’s Christmas Tree Project.  When asked who I thought would make a good arts partner, I immediately thought of Baker Hunt. I have spent many afternoons taking mosaic classes with my daughter, as well as going to meetings and attending arts and cultural events there.

Students, age 6 to 12, from two sections of the Lil Rembrandts class, created the ornaments under the direction of Chad Turner and Judy Sander. One class chose to study the state of Kentucky’s symbols. The other focused on making collages from photos of our national parks. The class that worked on the symbols, such as the state tree, bird and butterfly used Model Magic. The other class used acrylic paint.

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Photo used with permission of Baker Hunt Cultural Center.

While Rosemary and Teresa did not travel to the ceremony, they did get together with the group to celebrate the project. Here are a few of the photographs of the students and their ornaments now hanging on the National Christmas Tree.

Jean St. John, arts education director

Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , , , , ,

2013 Governor’s Awards in the Arts: Lexington Children’s Theatre

I first became acquainted with Lexington Children’s Theatre when I was a teenager and attended the theater’s week-long Youth Theatre Arts camp at Midway College. It was there I met people who were very different from me but who I also easily related to because of our shared interest in theater and performance. I also met people who would influence my life for years to come.

Let me be clear without being too personal: My involvement with theater as a young person probably saved my life. I really hated being a teenager — not because I was bullied or had problems at school or negative experiences with friends. I just did not enjoy adolescence one iota. But being involved with theater, through two summers of camps with LCT and then being invited to participate in a youth theater through an instructor I met at the camp, gave me an outlet into which I could generate my terribly frustrating teenage angst. I also made a ton of new friends, and many of them I am still in touch with to this day.

All of the above to say: The arts are more important to young people than we can possibly comprehend. There are a million stories like mine, and there will continue to be children whose lives are made better through the arts as long as there are organizations like Lexington Children’s Theatre. I was very excited to conduct this interview with Larry Snipes, the theater’s producing director since 1979. I also think I should point out that it was important to Larry to recognize the entire staff of the theater and the work they do for Kentucky’s children when discussing receiving the Governor’s Awards in the Arts 2013 Education Award.

Talk a little bit about the theater when you started and how things have changed over the years.

When I came, it was a transition time for the theater. It was kind of a difficult time because, the children’s theater — for all of its life up until 1979 — had been a youth theater, a theater of young people performing for young people.

The board had decided we were going to work more toward becoming a professional theater, and that was something I was very excited about when I came. One of the things about the Discovery shows we do now, they give young people the same performance opportunities, but they are supported by a professional staff.

Our goal when I came in was to try to move the theater to a more professional company so that we could actually serve more young people. When you’re doing just the youth theater performance, you’re really focused on what those young people are getting out of the experience, not necessarily what the audience is getting out of the experience.

When I came in, the idea was really to broaden that experience so the audience was getting as good of a product as we could actually provide. That was really the driving force behind what we’ve been doing the last 34 years — to do the best quality work we can possibly do, and share it with as many young people as we can. That’s kind of what pushed us into a lot of different areas. We still do the youth theater component. We do three shows a year, plus the summer family musical where we try to encourage families to do shows together — parents and young people to participate in the shows as one. We didn’t abandon that hands-on experience for a young person in performance. What we did was enhance it and try to give them the support they needed to succeed.

Tell me a little more specifically about the work you do when you go into schools and the experiences the kids have and why they’re important for children in Kentucky.

For a lot of young people we reach we’re the first experience they have in live performance theater. To see a full production within their school and within their community, that’s the most valuable thing we provide. We provide that final product a young person sees for the first time — where they see an actor, a live person performing before them, in the same room. It’s different from watching on television and different from watching a movie. That immediate connection they get with an artist, that’s what’s important for us. In addition to the performances we provide, we offer residencies and workshops with young people, and with teachers so they can get professional development workshops. Our education department has really come a long way the last several years in arts integration, using the arts to teach other subject matter and to integrate the arts across the curriculum. All of these things we do to try to provide a complete experience. It’s not just the performance; it’s not just the residency. It takes all of it to get there.

We want to give children an opportunity to explore their creative side and to be creative. And hopefully, through this exposure and through this experience in participating in theater or seeing theater, they can look at the world a different way. They can look at themselves a different way, and they can become a more complete person by doing that. And that’s what our goal is.

Why is your work important to the children and their parents, the people of Kentucky?

The thing about what we do is, we tell stories. Throughout history, for as long as man has communicated, we’ve learned and told stories, and we’ve told stories to teach and help us learn. That’s the most important aspect of what we do, the storytelling. By participating in the storytelling as a performer or as an audience member — our audience members participate — it broadens your view of the world. I think that’s what we can do. We can give a young person a chance to look at what it was like to be a holocaust victim, or a king or a fairy or a princess. It gives them a chance to identify with someone in this theater, or the character or the story, and learn as that character learns. That works on every single level, whether you’re a child or someone that’s my age, or a grandparent. It works on so many levels, that experience of watching a performance or participating in a performance, or seeing something that makes you … not necessarily question, but understand something, a concept that you didn’t fully comprehend. I think that’s what storytelling has done for mankind through our history. That’s how we learn. That’s what we offer young people in Kentucky — a different way of learning, a different way of looking at things.

Emily B. Moses, communications director

 

Categories: Arts Education, Arts Organizations, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

“Fitting” a residency into your classroom

One of the programs that the Kentucky Arts Council is most proud of are our Teaching Art Together grants, which provide assistance for Kentucky schools to bring teaching artists into their classrooms. These grants provide students with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience the creative process alongside a professional artist trained in the Kentucky and national education standards.

Even so, we often have a hard time “selling” this opportunity to schools and teachers due to misconceptions about the nature of a residency. Classroom time is tight, and it gets tighter every year. So, the most frequent concern we hear about having residency is, “I don’t have a even a couple of hours – let alone a week or more – to give up to a residency if I’m going to get through all of my content this year.”

We understand! That’s why we insist that residencies complement classroom content. Residencies are a school or teacher’s chance to bring in a new voice to teach content through the arts. It’s also a way for teachers to learn new methods and techniques in these subject areas to use in the future. Take, for instance, this example from Tichenor Middle School in Erlanger.

Tichenor was awarded the Teaching Art Together grant in the 2012-2013 school year. Fiber artist, Pat Sturtzel, partnered with art teacher, Scott Fairchild, to add a fiber arts component to the Tichenor Middle School art curriculum. Pat facilitated a series of fiber arts projects that built each previous activity while also reinforcing art concepts, cultural connections and math and science concepts. Over a seven-week period, Pat worked with four core classes and provided four hours of professional development to the rest of the faculty and staff.

Mr. Fairchild and students learned surface design techniques (fabric dyeing, fabric printing, stitched embellishment) and textile construction techniques (construction of pillows, wall-hangings), each linked to various cultures (African, Southeast Asian, Japanese, Euro-American).  The residency enhanced the arts curriculum at Tichenor by giving students the opportunity to work directly with a professional artist. This firsthand experience gave students knowledge about how a professional artist works within their chosen field.  Interaction with the artist, visualizing her techniques and then being encouraged to explore their own interpretation of the creative process, enabled the students to engage in activities outside their daily instruction.

Another way the residency enhanced the arts curriculum was through the introduction of a new art medium (to both the school art teacher and students).  Mr. Fairchild had little experience working in this particular medium.  The visiting artist worked to provide the school art teacher with an authentic experience to expand his knowledge and skills.

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“During the residency I was excited to see the students work and learn with Mrs. Sturtzel. The students were up for the challenge of working in a new art process and came away with quality art projects and a basic understanding of what all goes into fiber arts.” One project the 8th grade students made were hand-dyed backpacks with a personal printed design. The 7th grade created throw pillows. The final group project consisted of a dozen 8-foot banners displaying various techniques and a mystical-themed appliqué project.

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Since the residency, Mr. Fairchild has taken what he learned and taught several lessons in fiber arts including, a pennant project, dying and printing projects, and a class quilt.  “From this residency, I am still learning and being challenged.  I remember calling Mrs. Stutzel saying, ‘You’ll never guess where I am at…  Joann’s Fabric!’  Remaining in contact with Mrs. Sturtzel and expanding the concepts of embroidery, fabric dying and screen printing, to other projects, has made a valuable addition to my art program at Tichenor. “

Artist residencies do not “take up” valuable classroom time. Artist residencies are the proverbial “stitch in time” that saves nine. Inviting an artist into your school and classroom is an enriching experience for students and teachers. Each will learn a better way of understanding the world around them and exploring the human experience – these two behaviors being the essence of education.

Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

The Teaching Art Together grant application is open now with a deadline of Oct. 15, 2013 to develop a residency plan to take place between January and June 2014.

Categories: Arts Education, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Creativity and Innovation: developing tomorrow’s workforce

Arts in education week

Today marks my sixth month as arts education director for the Kentucky Arts Council.  As a veteran teaching artist with many memories in the field, stepping in as director has been a whirlwind of activity. Beyond learning how to manage four arts education programs, I have been trying to wrap my mind around the recent changes in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Arts and Humanities Program Review and the revised National Core Arts Standards. How will these changes affect our arts organizations and teaching artists? How can we help the schools?

Next week is National Arts in Education Week. As the arts council staff discussed the many changes in the field, we focused on how important our Kentucky Arts Partner (KAP) organizations are to the schools across the state. With the newer TranspARTation grant program, bus subsidies to arts organizations have become more important than ever.  Field trips, hands-on arts experiences and guest artists now count in the Arts and Humanities Program Review. To be proficient in Demonstrator 3 “teachers must provide models of exemplary artistic performances and products to enhance students’ understanding of an arts discipline and to develop their performance/production skills.” KAP organizations provide rich arts experiences for Kentucky students.

How can we help strengthen that relationship?  First, bring together business and education leaders to discuss what tomorrow’s youth need to bring to the workforce: the ability to be innovative and creative.  Next, connect the dots between the benefits of arts education and 21st Century work skills. Then, inform our KAP organizations about the Arts and Humanities Program Review, and open up a discussion on how they can work hand in hand with their local school districts.

Join us on Wednesday, Sept. 11, from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. to discuss how providing students with rich arts experiences today will help ensure tomorrow’s successful workforce. The symposium is offered during National Arts in Education Week, which was passed in 2010 by House Resolution 275, stating congressional support:  “Whereas arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theater, media arts, literature, design and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.” The symposium is free and open to the public but does require registration.

Click here to sign up: http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Opportunities/conferences/EBlastCreativityInnovations.htm.

Jean St. John, arts education director

Categories: Arts Education | Tags: , , , , ,

Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sa Rembo

Both my boys are grown men now, but I do remember a summer when they went to camp at the Lexington Children’s Theatre and became immersed in the play “Tikki Tikki Tembo.” We would get up very early in the morning so I could drive them from Frankfort to Lexington before work. My sister, who lives in Lexington, would pick them up from the theater in the afternoons, and then I would bring them home in the evenings.

Since this was almost 20 years ago, my memory fails me when it comes to exact logistical details. But the experience for me and my children is fondly remembered. In a period of two weeks, I heard lines being read and recited over and over again with that familiar chant — “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” When it came time for performance, I think I was more impressed with the way the program worked than with my boys’ performances.

First, when you went in the theater there were no chairs. Carpeted risers were the norm and it put adults on the same level as children. Also, every child got a chance to participate and every child was a star. Of course, I thought my boys were the best. But I’m sure every parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle in the audience was made to feel that their child was the best also. I was so amazed that a full-scale production could be put together in such a short time.

Let me be clear, I did not sign my kids up for this because I thought they had great potential to be the next Johnny Depp or Russell Crowe. I wanted to give them something to do and let them see what live theater is about. But most of all, I just wanted them to have fun. Mission accomplished!

I’m quite sure that the Lexington Children’s Theater can still do that for your children this summer. I just checked their website and Summer Theatre School 2013 still has two sessions before summer ends.

Not near Lexington? The Kentucky Arts Council has put together a list of summer arts activities for kids across the state. Check it out at: http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Resources/pdf/KAPSummerPrograms2013.pdf.

Beware! If you send your kids to theater camp, you might just find yourself 20 years later reciting some ridiculous lines from a children’s play and not remembering the context at all.  I’m just saying…

Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.

Note:  Lexington Children’s Theatre celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is the oldest continuously running children’s theater in the nation.  It is also the 2013 recipient of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts Education Award.

Ed Lawrence, arts marketing director

Categories: Arts Education, Performing Arts | Tags: , , , ,

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