A True Arts Education Partnership

Posted by Alyx Kellington On March - 29 - 2012
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

In revisiting the Arts Education Blog Salon, I’ve found that one topic keeps popping up in conversation. Victoria Plettner-Saunders asked, “When is it a partnership and when is it something else?” That something else is often a collaboration—and although equally important, there are differences between “collaboration” and “partnership.”

To celebrate Spring Break, I thought I’d highlight a true partnership.

For the past seven years, an amazing partnership has taken place at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in Palm Beach County, FL.

Sponsored by Prime Time Palm Beach County, Inc. and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, each year approximately fifty children attend the Spring Break Residency: a two-week intensive afterschool program for youth in grades 4–8. The kids work with professional teaching artists and learn new skills in stage production and various art forms.

Students are nominated by afterschool providers and this year, came from eight different sites within a fifteen mile radius. The students do not have to have previous experience in the arts to be involved in the residency program. Youth are encouraged to take an active part in creating their own production, work as a team, cultivate their own ideas, and use their unique talents to express themselves on stage.

The youth are very dedicated and come together for six consecutive days during spring break, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and then for the next week, for five days after school.

Every student is part of a rotation group and sees each teaching artist twice, but it is the daily interaction with their “homebase” teacher that introduces, teaches, and hones in on the skills of that field. The culminating performance of original material takes place on a Friday night and the amphitheater is filled with families, neighbors, organizations, and friends.

The funders, host organization, and residency coordinator are not the only partners in this equation. Many of the teaching artists have been with the program for four or more years. Sonja and Juliana teach salsa, cumbia, tap, hip hop, step and Afro Cuban dance, weaving different languages, continents, and cultures into the lessons. The students have a chance to learn the dance moves as well as choreograph a signature solo.

Jashua brings voice, spoken word, poetry, and instruments into the production, while Aysha provides dance, stage direction, set design, diction, and projection.

Jonathan’s group focuses on film: writing, editing, acting, and special effects, while Trish’s students provide the visuals, backdrops, accent pieces, and design.

In addition to the onstage performance, the students are responsible for some behind-the-scenes talents such as coming up with the theme, the title, poster design, and t-shirts. The class of 2012 chose “peace” as the overall theme and with their silhouettes, portraits and poems, the title “Peace of Me” is portrayed in every scene.

The residency program is youth voice driven and 21st century skills are scattered throughout. The program encourages the students to dig deeper and find out what is really important to them. They are encouraged to be creative and the teachers guide them through the arts as entertainment, self-expression, and career opportunities.

In just two weeks, the students learn and retain so much about life and about themselves. When asked what the program means to them, I heard, “I didn’t know I could do something like this. The residency gives me the confidence to do and be so much more.”

In addition to the students accepted into the program, each year several of the graduates return as Youth Mentors. Some are now in high school and some even return from college to participate in the program that means so much to them.

This partnership goes way beyond the funding, logos, kudos, and assessment.

This partnership builds lifelong skills, friendship, and self-esteem.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.