It was a humble sign — just an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of white paper — hanging on a post near the entrance to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. I spotted it while heading to the 9/11 memorial in the arts center atrium.
It read “Kennedy Center Partners in Education Workshops.” My heart skipped a beat. I’m a longtime fan of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, located in Washington, D.C. — and love finding them here in our own neck of the woods now and then.
I saw one of their touring Kennedy Center “Theater for Young Audiences” productions at Higley Center for the Performing Arts last season. (Good, but not our beloved Childsplay.) And attended “Arts in Crisis: A Community Conversation with Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser” at Phoenix Theatre in April of 2010. (His advice: Deliver a quality product and market it well.)
I noticed a blurb about the Kennedy Center while reading a recent “Arts Learning Newsletter” from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. It noted that the Kennedy Center is seeking local teams for its “Partners in Education” program — which “facilitates educational partnerships between arts organizations around the nation and their local school systems.” It’s much jazzier than it reads on paper.
I spent part of Tuesday evening with about two dozen teachers participating in this very program. Two of them had taken a break from an afternoon session when I spied them near the National Unity Flag exhibit, and pounced (nicely, of course) to ask what they were up to. I’d just finished snapping this picture of Ted Kennedy’s signature for my daughter Jennifer, an ASU student with a thing for history.
I shared my business card, which soon found its way to fine arts coordinator Janet Blum from the Scottsdale School District, who promptly tracked me down and invited me to check out the workshop taking place on the Virginia G. Piper Theater stage where I’d once watched Kristin Chenoweth perform.
I headed home, wrote and posted a piece on the National Unity Flag, whipped up some pork chops and mashed potatoes for one of my kiddos, and headed back for the final hour or so of the workshop.
There I was warmly greeted by Blum, Keith Preston (fine arts coordinator for the Paradise Valley Unified School District), Tammy Hinds (education program coordinator for the Scottsdale Center for the Performiing Arts) and Melanie Layne from the Kennedy Center.
Seems I’d just missed the performance by four small groups of “tableaus” meant to integrate art and history on the topic of the Western expansion — but they were kind enough to run them again, and to let me sit in for the rest of the evening. I came home with oodles of notes and handouts that you’ll likely see reflected in future posts on arts and education.
After an hour of listening to the “learn by doing” mantra, I realized I could offer at least one teacher the opportunity to take what she’s experiencing at the workshop (which continues on Wednesday) and share it with our readers. Soon I connected with a teacher and proud new mama named Patricia.
Writing a guest post will be right up her alley. She’s already blogging regularly as “Little Mamma Italiana” — sharing photos and pearls about parenting baby daughter Gia and life with “daddy Sal.” One photo shows Sal and Gia profiles, suggesting their ears are “exactly the same.” Sorry, Sal. Gia’s are actually cuter.
So what were my “take aways” from the evening? That teachers are some of the hardest working people on the planet, that it’s fun to watch teachers act out history whether you’re five or 50, that art is where it’s at when it comes to hands-on learning. Also that arts integration fosters literacy and helps kids remember material longer.
Watch for Patricia’s post in coming weeks, and more pearls from the arts professionals and teachers taking part in workshops this week. I gave lots of teachers my card, and hope they’ll get in touch to brag a bit about their students and their schools.
Note: Find the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org. Visit the Kennedy Center at www.kennedy-center.org. Sign up for the Arizona Commission on the Arts “Arts Learning Newsletter” at www.azarts.gov. Read Patricia’s blog at http://littlemammaitaliana.blogspot.com/.
Coming up: A duo of posts on costume design, Review: Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, What’s new in opera?