Tag Archives: art blogs

Fertile field, empty nest

Soon I'll be taking flight with new "Stage Mom Musings" adventures

I planted a seed some 1,000 + posts ago, eager to share my love for theater with fellow parents. You could say that Raising Arizona Kids was the soil. It’s been a fertile field for parents to grow, nurture and share experiences for more than two decades. The “Stage Mom” blog has thrived there, growing into a tree of sorts with branches reaching far beyond the Valley of the Sun. I’m grateful for the roots that’ve made the next part of the “Stage Mom” journey possible.

Soon I’ll be leaving the nest to take “Stage Mom” solo, though I know I’ll never really have to fly alone. I’ll still be part of the Raising Arizona Kids family, continuing to write features for the magazine that gave my writing wings and nurtured its growth through the years. My first Raising Arizona Kids article was published in a birthday party issue – something about a Beanie Baby party for daughter Jennifer. Back then, all I knew of writing was “write what you know.”

Karen Barr – the magazine’s founder, publisher and editor – has been a mentor throughout my writing journey, and is incredibly supportive even now as I’m preparing to leave the nest. Much of what I know about writing came from years of “on the job” training with Karen and fellow writers in the RAK family. My writing for RAK has garnered both national and state awards, and I’m grateful for the magazine’s role in helping me find and share my voice about matters great and small.

Most recently, “Stage Mom” earned two Arizona Press Club Awards in the non-metro category – second place for arts criticism and first place for features blog. RAK writers earned an additional six awards. I’ll never stop learning from RAK, but other projects now beckon – including a book about dance that I hope will be the first of several guides to introducing children and teens to the arts. I’ve got an amazing partner for the dance book, and will be sharing more news on that front in coming weeks.

For now, I’m busy making a new home for the writer formerly known as “Stage Mom.” Think Twitter, Facebook, blog and beyond. Watching me wrestle the world of widgets should prove plenty entertaining. Cyberspace is filled with stage moms, so you’ll find me using the “Stage Mom Musings” handle. It seemed the best moniker given my tendency to muse, and I hope you’ll follow me for news of “Stage Mom Musings” developments and future arts adventures.

I’ll continue to cover the Arizona arts and culture that’s so near and dear to my heart, and hope you’ll all stay in touch about your own arts offerings and adventures. Folks who follow @stagemommusings on Twitter will be the first to know as I unroll the new blog.

I’m genuinely grateful for everyone whose support for “Stage Mom” has made the start of this journey possible. Thanks for reading the work, for sharing your own experiences with arts and culture, for making your own contributions to the arts scene in Arizona and beyond. The world is a better place with art, and I’m looking forward to many more years of telling her stories.

— Lynn

Note: Once the new site is up and running, we’ll transfer all “Stage Mom” posts to the new blog — and many will also continue to be available through RAK’s online archives. Please continue to share your news about Arizona arts and culture with me at rakstagemom@gmail.com.

Coming up: Once upon a widget

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience while the tech fairies work to move my 1,250 + posts to their new home. For the latest news follow me @stagemommusings on Twitter.


Theater meets history

I’m surrounded by history buffs. My husband James and 19-year-old daughter Jennifer seem to always have their nose in a good history or philosophy book, while both our daughters are loving the historical fiction books they got as holiday gifts.

This show will delight history, music and theater buffs

I thought I might be able to escape for a few hours to enjoy opening night of the Phoenix production of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” presented by Arizona Theatre Company. But that’s like trying to avoid trees by strolling through a forest.

Turns out I sat next to a very gracious history professor and his wife, and met a 5th grade history phenom in the Herberger Theater Center lobby after the show.

I sort of knew what I was getting into, I suppose — since “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” covers the life and times of wordsmith and folk musician Woody Guthrie, who traveled from Oklahoma to California, New York and plenty of other parts.

I was surprised that I didn’t see more young people at the show. Other than a pair of teen boys seated a few rows behind me and a boy who looked to be about five years old seated just ahead of me, the crowd was mostly folks around my age (give or take a good decade).

Having once homeschooled my children, and having volunteered more than 1,000 hours in their traditional classrooms, I always have an eye out for those “teachable moments” in which experiences create rich learning opportunities.

I’d have had a ball taking my kids to see “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” when they were younger (my husband will probably take one or more of them before the show ends its run on his birthday, Jan 16).

The show features a cast of five and a three-piece band set against a backdrop that mirrors life in the Dust Bowl or along the railroad tracks, complete with a giant projection screen on each side showing black and white photos of the times.

Woody Guthrie's American Song, an ATC production at the Herberger Theater, features strong storytelling and moving music amidst a beautiful set with lovely lighting

Immigrant laborers and their children living in squalor. Job seekers moving from town to town in search of honest pay. The sticker on Guthrie’s guitar that denounces fascism. The sign offering tent space for 15 cents a week.

In an age when issues of immigrant rights and unemployment are so prominent on the political landscape, shows like “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” offer insights into ways these issues have played out in earlier times.

It’s easy to imagine coupling this show with a trip to explore one of Arizona’s history museums or a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix — where kids can learn more about the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, piano, harmonica and other instruments played during the show.

There’s a magnificent study guide for “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” on the Arizona Theatre Company website so parents and teachers can learn more about related topics before attending. I bought a loosely bound copy at the show for just $5, and I’m still having fun combing through it.

I ended up giving my program to a lovely woman who was singing on a corner near the theater with her service dog named “Charlie.” Like Guthrie, she’d placed a hat on the ground for tips — though Charlie seemed to be eyeing it in search of something more rewarding, like food.

Turns out she’s one of the “sopranos” referred to in a recent New York Times review of Ib Andersen’s “The Nutcracker” — though Alastair Macaulay’s dismissive comments have not, to her credit, disuaded her from her craft.

But back to all things history and theater. History, like theater, is a living experience. It never stands still and none of us escapes being part of it, though some folks choose to take a more active — even activist — role than others.

I’m hoping that Jacob, the 5th grade history buff I met after the show, will get in touch with me. I’m certain you’d enjoy his thoughts on the show more than anything I have to offer.

The mom in me was particularly struck by his observation that American youth take a great deal for granted. So many hoard high-tech gadgets unaware that others are hunting for a way to put low-tech food on the table.

Jacob is a young man we can all be proud to create history, and theater, alongside of. I imagine he’d have a mighty fine time riding the rails with Guthrie.

Kids like Jacob give me hope that future generations might do a better job of separating want from need.

— Lynn

Note: I often invite young people to contact me with their thoughts about shows they’ve seen — and am also hoping to hear from a young girl I met at the Herberger while she was there to see “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” with her father and sister.

Coming up: New year, new exhibits

Art news you can use

Jennifer Campbell piece from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

If you’re a parent, you’re an arts educator. And a literacy specialist. And a P.E. coach. And a math tutor. And more.

So how can you stay abreast of arts news and opportunities that may impact your child’s arts experiences inside and outside of the classroom?

Check out the online newsletter from the arts learning department at the Arizona Commission on the Arts–which simply and succinctly shares news of interest to both parents and professional arts educators.

Art can get overlooked in the classroom for many reasons. Sometimes teachers don’t understand the intrinsic value of arts or its benefits to enhancing skill and understanding in other academic subjects.

Christine Mesiti work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

Sometimes teachers feel intimidated by the arts. Often they simply don’t have the resources of time or money to invest in arts-related activities.

A well-informed and genuinely interested parent can prove an invaluable support for teachers who have the will, but not the way, to foster student arts experiences. And the arts learning newsletter is a great way to stay informed.

Here’s just a brief sampling of the ideas and opportunities noted in the latest issue…

Tara Logsdon work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

Arts learning programs

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation contest open to all Arizona students in grades 9-12. Participating teachers receive free materials and participating students are eligible for scholarship opportunities. Schools can register on or after Aug 16.

Arts learning professional development

Mary Jenae Sanchez work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

The 21st Century Skills Map provides teachers with educator-created examples of how to fuse a broad range of arts (dance, music, theater, visual and media arts) with other areas to promote student knowledge and skills essential to the 21st century workforce.

Arts advocacy

Initial legislation passed at the sub-committee level on July 15 approved level funding ($40 million) for the U.S. Department of Arts in Education (part of the U.S. Department of Education).

Angelica Jubran-Bishara work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

Also in July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designating the second week of September as “Arts in Education Week“–which is the first Congressional expression of support for all disciplines comprising arts education.

Funding opportunities

Online letter of inquiry applications to the MAP Fund–which provides project-specific funds to playwrights, choreographers, directors, performers and composers experimenting in any performance tradition or discipline–will be available starting Sept 15.

Jennifer Campbell work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

The letter of intent deadline for the Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship program, a national initiative to revitalize outstanding art teachers, is Nov 12. Eligibility guidelines allow arts teachers working in specialized public arts high schools and arts-focused magnet and charter schools to apply.

Art exhibit opportunities

The Artlink Heritage Square Gallery is seeking a wide variety of visual media from high school students across the country to display in their first ever group show in November. Submission deadline is Sept 3.

Christine Messiti work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

The statewide Faces of Afterschool art project is seeking self-portraits for possible exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix as part of national Lights Out Afterschool. Deadline is Aug 30.

These are just a few of the tidbits I found in the latest online newsletter of the arts learning department at the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

It also features information on arts-related research and reports, arts-related conferences, exhibition opportunities for student-related outreach programs and more–with links you can follow to learn more or get involved. Click here to read it yourself.

Jennifer Campbell work from Artlink Heritage Square Gallery

Special thanks to Mandy Buscas, Arts Learning Director, and Alex Nelson, Arts Learning Coordinator, for helping us all stay up to date on the latest and greatest arts learning news in Arizona.

And thanks to all you parents who support your local arts teachers with gifts of time, talent, information and advocacy. Together we’re assuring that America keeps art in its heart.


Note: Artwork photos are from the Artlink Heritage Gallery WordPress blog at www.artlinkhsgallery.wordpress.com. Click here to subscribe to the arts learning newsletter and/or other publications from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Coming up: Where art meets civics, Valley theaters launch seasons with exciting show selections, Arizona performers dance their way to the Radio City Rockettes, Finding fall arts classes

Have you got art on the brain?

I hadn’t fully realized, when beginning my daily “Stage Mom” posts for Raising Arizona Kids magazine some months ago, that I would soon be finding art in just about everything. 

Consider the case of a press release that recently crossed my virtual desk, a laptop sitting atop a round black pedestal table nestled between my laundry room and  back patio door.

The headline read “Brain food for children: Neuroscience at ASU.”

Being a proud “Sun Devil” mom, I was delighted to learn of the “ASU Brain Fair” taking place from 9am to 2pm on March 22 and 23 on the Tempe campus for Arizona State University.

Might it be possible, I wondered, to write a post about “the fine art of body parts.”

There’s more of it than you might imagine…

At the ASU Brain Fair, for example, 700 children in grades K-5 (along with their teachers) will explore several stations that use art materials to teach children about how the brain works.

At the “neuron station,” students will make neurons out of pipe cleaners. At the “discovery station” they’ll make brains out of Play-Doh. Because I read and listen to a lot of political commentary, I’m tempted to add a snarly snippet here–but I’ll try to hold back.

Some parents may wonder why it’s so important for children to understand and appreciate the brain. Think bike helmets, good. Mind-altering drugs, bad.

I put my own ‘pipe cleaners’ to work looking for additional art/brain connections, and soon discovered “The Dana Foundation,” a “private philanthropic organization that supports brain research.”

Don’t let that fool you. It’s also an incredible resource for arts educators and arts advocates. The www.dana.org website includes exhaustive information on three topics: the brain, immunology and arts education.

I learned Friday night—while attending a performance of the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts—that the company’s artistic director, Janet Eilber, has served as director of arts education for the foundation.

While surfing the foundation’s website, I stumbled on a blog post titled “Music as a Healer” and a column titled “The Implications of Arts Learning for Families and Parents.”

I also learned that Brain Awareness Week 2010 ran from March 15 through today—so please, be extra good to your brain.

While you’re at it, treat your heart to a little TLC too. Surely you suspected I’d find art in more than just a single body part…

If you’re eager to learn more about the heart in a fun and family-friendly way, check out the Halle Heart Center at the American Heart Association in Tempe—which features some very cool hands-on activities and teaches practical skills that might just save your life one day.

The Valley is also home to something called “The Medical Museum,” a collection of historical medicine-related items exhibited in special display cases throughout Phoenix Baptist Hospital and Medical Center.

I suppose the fine art of body parts is up to individual interpretation…

After learning I was writing this post, my 18-year-old daughter Jennifer was kind enough to alert me to “The Arizona Tattoo Expo 2010,” taking place April 30 to May 2 at the Mesa Convention Center.

I’m going to stick with something a bit more tame—an arts competition from Grand Canyon University designed to “raise heart disease awareness.” The competition is open to all ages and features several fun prizes.

To enter the Grand Canyon University contest, visit facebook.com/grandcanyonu. Or call 602-639-7527 to learn more.

And consider yourself lucky. I’ve used up my word count with no mention of navels, toenails or freckles.


Update: My latest ASU find is a presentation by Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security–taking place Thursday, March 25th–on the Tempe campus. For details visit http://justice.clas.asu.edu/lectures. Learn about the live webcast of this event at http://justice.clas.asu.edu/node/118 –Lynn 3/24/10

Note: The Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery has issued a “Call to Artists” for their 2010 exhibitions featuring the theme “Fellow Humans.” Their 2010 art exhibits “will focus on the timeless connection between art and the human form.” May-June 2010 will feature “The Sacred & The Living” and Nov.-Dec. 2010 will feature “The Dance of Life.” The postmark deadline is April 1, 2010. To learn more, visit www.herbergertheater.org.

Coming up: Adventures at the Arizona Museum for Youth, “The 39 Steps” comes to ASU Gammage, Artists unite to battle stigma

Take two, take two

This is my second take with Raising Arizona Kids Magazine. I wrote features and columns for the magazine for nearly a decade when my children were younger, and I’m delighted about returning now.

It complements in some ways my second take on parenting—that time when our children begin to set out on their own and we have more time to return to other loves. For me, one of those loves is the arts. Especially the performing arts: theatre, dance, music and more.

I lost my own mother all too quickly to pancreatic cancer in the years before I discovered the pleasure and power of writing. One of the memories I cherish the most is sitting snuggled up against my mother’s arm during a live performance of the Nutcracker ballet every holiday season.

My mother was a single mom—and a really, really good one—but there was never much money for things like the season tickets that I take for granted today. Adventures in the arts, outside a plethora of homemade arts and crafts and basement talent shows, were few and far between.

When my own children (two now in college and another in high school) were barely hip-height, we often headed to live performances. We enjoyed everything from puppet theatre to symphony concerts featuring familiar movie themes.

I think it was instinctual, like so much of parenting. It was fun. It felt good. I didn’t think about the possible benefits. I just loved the laughter, the sometimes tears, and the joy of doing it all together. I’ll share a bit in future blogs about the ways the arts have touched our lives, and I hope you’ll share with me the ways they have touched yours too.

I’ll also share news about upcoming events in Arizona—plays, concerts, dance performances and more. Sometimes I’ll remind you about something wonderful coming our way (you can always get this info online at http://www.raisingarizonakids.com ). Sometimes I’ll share expert advice from Valley artists on everything from how to prepare for an audition to how to really appreciate a performance. Sometimes I’ll share the stories of young performers.

I’ll have tips for parents of preschoolers through parents of teens. Before long, I hope, you’ll be sharing your tips too. That’s the beauty of blogging. It really captures the very essence of the RAK mission—connecting families with information, resources and support as we face everyday parenting decisions and search for ways to enrich our lives together.

I wish we could all grab a cup of coffee together. But until technology makes that possible, I’ll see you in the blogosphere…