Tag Archives: Pushcart Players

Arts in Education Week

During a recent episode of “Jeopardy,” the final question required knowledge of both children’s literature and opera. Think Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” meets Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Only one contestant seemed to know much about either — and he walked away with the cash. I’m guessing there’s an art teacher he ought to be thanking back home.

It’s been heartening to see arts and culture play such a pivotal role in 9/11 anniversary ceremonies. Sunday’s event at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial in NYC featured Yo-Yo Ma, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Emi Ferguson, Paul Simon and James Taylor. Opening remarks by Michael Bloomberg quoted Shakespeare, and poetry was prevalent throughout.

The Pushcart Players perform one of five school shows offered by Mesa Arts Center this season

Too often our nation forgets all that has been forged by arts and culture, and fails to appreciate the role they can play in moving us forward. So I’m delighted that Congress passed a bill last year designating the second week of September “National Arts in Education Week.”

For those who love the arts, no explanation of their impact or importance is needed. Art is an instinct, in impulse. An adventure of imagination as necessary as air. For others, they seem a mere nicety at best — perhaps because the joys of art never touched their lives as children.

But those unmoved by art’s aesthetic power should recognize its more tangible benefits. Art creates jobs. Creates cities where people want to live. Creates schools full of innovators and imaginators. Maybe even the “creative class” touted by a presidential candidate in his stump speeches.

Ninety percent of Arizonans believe that arts education is either important or very important, according to results of a public opinion poll conducted by ASU in May 2009 — a poll cited in the background report for this year’s Arizona Town Hall, the first of 98 Arizona Town Halls to focus on Arizona arts and culture. www.aztownhall.org.

The Arizona Arts Education section of the report was authored by Mandy Buscas (then director of arts learning for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, now the arts education outreach coordinator for Mesa Arts Center) and Lynn Tuttle (director of arts education for the Arizona Department of Education).

MAC presents Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for grades K-6

Their work considers results of the 2009 Arts Education Census. It also looks at federal, state and local educational policies — noting that state support for arts in education has suffered significant losses of late due to “efforts to close significant stage budget shortfalls.”

Their reporting on the arts census notes that “20% of schools offered no courses in any arts discipline” and that “79% of schools spend less than $1 per year per student for arts instruction.” This despite the fact that U.S. employers rank creativity/innovation among the top five skills growing in importance.

So what can be done to move Arizona forward? A report issued after the Arizona Town Hall on arts and culture says that “Arizona residents need to speak up, stand for what we support, and make that support known at the ballot box at all levels, from the legislature, to the superintendent of public instruction, and to local school boards.”

It sounds rather daunting if you’re not accustomed to advocating for issues with local and stage officials, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started — including Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

The report also urges the arts and culture community to partner with the business community to “lobby for improved arts education” — and calls on nonprofit organizations and arts professionals in our communities to “continue augmenting arts education in the schools.” Think artist residencies, school field trips and such.

There’s plenty we can do as parents. Volunteer to help with art projects in the classroom. Coordinate field trips to places like libraries, performing arts venues, museums and exhibit spaces. Donate art-related supplies to local schools. Urge schools to integrate arts learning into other subjects. Vote art at every opportunity.

MAC presents Native American Song & Dance for grades K-12

Folks who separate art from the other disciplines, orchestrating false dichotomies that pit science and math against music and theater should learn more about artists like Emi Ferguson, a distinguished student of both music and epidemiology. Or scientists like Oliver Sacks.

To learn more about arts and education in Arizona, sign up for the free arts learning newsletter from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. www.azarts.gov.

The latest issue features details on the Poetry Out Loud program, a student art competition, an opportunity to participate in the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program, Target field trip grants, teacher workshops and more.

As for the “Jeopardy” answer that won the big bucks, it was “Pooh-bah.”

— Lynn

Note: Additional arts in education resources include the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities (www.pcah.gov), Americans for the Arts (www.artsusa.org) and the Arts Education Partnership (www.aep-arts.org). Learn more about Mesa Arts Center arts education programs at www.mesaartscenter.com.

Coming up: Country music meets arts and culture, Art meets airport, Who let the cats out?, Shakespeare meets Sweeney Todd


SMILE–It’s the weekend!

For more than 60 students at Arizona School for the Arts, the weekend arts scene started last night (Thursday) with the opening of their spring musical production “Smile”—playing through April 25 at Phoenix Theatre.

I lucked out and got the last available seat for the show’s debut–which took me back to the ’80s ala big hair, hot pants, leg warmers and head bands.

I loved the vocals, student orchestra, costumes and references to bygone bigwigs like Geraldine Ferraro and Mikhail Gorbachev. The cast especially rocked the talent show scene, complete with ventriloquism, gospel music, tumbling, cooking demo and more.

The A Ludwig Dance Theatre “Festival 2010” also opened yesterday and runs through Sunday. The performance, at Tempe Center for the Arts, includes new works and the return of the whimsical “The Cheese Stands Alone.”

Tonight (April 23) the Tempe Center for the Arts welcomes two events for just a single evening—a “Music Under the Stars” celebration of art and music (featuring young musicians) at 7:30pm and the “LGBTQ Coalition’s Queer Prom” (featuring the theme “A Night in Tokyo”).

The weekend includes several other one day/one night only productions, including:

• “The Last, The Very Last Butterfly” presented by Pushcart Players. April 24 at 7:30pm at Chandler Center for the Arts. The work is a “Holocaust remembrance piece for ages 10 to adult” adapted from the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”

•”American Voices” presented by Center Dance Ensemble. April 25 at 2pm and 5pm at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The performance celebrates National Poetry Month with “new choreography to the words of America’s greatest poets.”

•”Laurie Lewis with Tom Rozum” presented by the Musical Instrument Museum. April 25 at 6:30pm at MIM Music Theater in Phoenix. The concert features “pure country and classic bluegrass” from Grammy award-winning fiddler, singer and songwriter Lewis.

Several shows end their run this weekend, so it’s your last chance to see them. These include “All the More to Love” from Phoenix Theatre and “Forbidden Broadway” from Mesa Encore Theatre.

This weekend will be your only opportunity to see Vaughn McBride’s “Pass My Imperfections Lightly By” from Command Performers. The one-woman docudrama, starring Patty Stephens as former First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, will be presented at 7pm on April 23 and 24 at Sovereign Grace Church in Gilbert.

More than a few shows open this weekend as well, including:

• “Richard III” presented by Southwest Shakespeare Company. April 22-May 8 at Mesa Arts Center.

• “No Child”— with actor and playwright Nilaja Sun—presented by Actors Theatre in Phoenix. April 23-May 9 at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

• “The Big Friendly Giant” presented by Childsplay. April 25-May 23 at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Finally, a sneak peek at the week ahead…

The Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presents an exclusive ‘one night only’ performance with acclaimed actor Ed Asner as FDR—a work written by Dore Schary and presented only sparingly throughout the United States.

Mr. Asner will perform at The John Paul Theatre at Phoenix College on Monday evening, April 26, at 7pm. Ticket options vary, with some including a dessert reception or even a post-show photo opportunity with Asner.

As always, the brevity of blogging prevents me from telling you about every exciting arts opportunity in the Valley this weekend.

Happily, you can visit the calendar in Raising Arizona Kids magazine’s monthly print edition or daily e-zine to learn about family-friendly fare from athletics and crafts to concerts and movies.

Creativity is just a click away when you start each day with RAK…


Note: Phoenix Theatre just announced $10 off all remaining Tier 1 and Tier 2 seats for the final weekend of “All the More to Love” (use code “LOVE10” when ordering).

Coming up: A pair of posts on the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It opens in just one day–hooray!