Following an exciting pilot year of residencies, performances, and professional development workshops, Chatham Arts Council (CAC) and Chatham County Schools (CCS) are expanding their collaboration for the coming year. The Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative will continue working in Year 1 School Residency Programs and add residencies and performances at new schools as well. This work is part of the Chatham Arts Council’s focus on Educating Kids through the Arts.
During 2016–2017, distinguished Chatham actor and teaching artist Mike Wiley will once again present A Game Apart, his powerful residency focusing on Jackie Robinson and other game-changers. This year he’ll be working with Pittsboro Elementary and J. S. Waters students. Wiley’s residency is part of the North Carolina Arts Council’s cARTwheels program. cARTwheels provides high quality stage performances and residency experiences to students across the state and includes:
• A teacher workshop to help teachers create entry ways for their students to the performance;
• High quality, age-appropriate live performances to engage students’ imaginations;
• Residency activities in schools and in community; and
• Study guides for students with activities and resources that make curricular connections and facilitate extensions in the classroom.
Meanwhile, Chatham’s award-winning teaching artists Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen of EbzB Productions will be working with students and teachers at Virginia Cross Elementary and North Chatham Elementary. Following a needs assessment with school administration and faculty, EbzB residencies often focus on local oral histories. Students research a topic, write a script, and develop their tools for communication of the subject in a performance or presentation. Emphasis is placed on effective use of actor tools: research, imagination, sense memory, manifestation, breath, body, eyes, face, and voice. Prior to the student presentation, EbzB residencies also include an 55-minute version of one of their original, touring theatrical productions.
During the pilot year, Wiley and EbzB led popular residencies at North Chatham and Virginia Cross Elementary. Wiley also performed at Moncure, Shabutaso’s master drummers and dancers shared West African history, music, and dance at Bonlee and J.S. Waters, and Geraud Staton explored geography with student artists on a new mural at Sage Academy (now the Center for Innovation). Collectively, the Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative provided arts exposure, arts integration, and arts learning experiences for more than 1400 CCS students.
In addition to the four scheduled residencies in ’16–’17, more performances or workshops will be scheduled at other schools. In 10 years, CAC envisions artist residencies or performances in all 17 schools in the Chatham school system. Dr. Lori Carlin, CCS Public Relations and Arts Coordinator, recently remarked, “Having a community partner organization that lists ‘educating kids through the arts’ as a guiding principle serves to enrich our students and community alike. The artist-in-residence opportunities will support and enhance instruction in a new and exciting way for the teachers and students involved.”
CAC is also developing an online directory for area teaching artists to share information about their
presentations, program offerings, lesson plans, fees, photos and videos. As the program expands, the Artists-in-Schools Initiative will not only impact more students, but will provide more opportunities to invest in our community’s talented pool of teaching artists.
CAC’s executive director, Cheryl Chamblee commented, “The Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative is a powerful example of a public-private partnership to fill a need for kids in Chatham County, with key sponsors including Chatham County, the North Carolina Arts Council, Chatham Homes Realty, Chatham Park, New Horizons Trading Company, and individual donors. When I’m in the classroom with our professional artists, and I see a teacher in happy tears over a student’s leap forward or a child grinning with a brand new confidence in learning, I know these funders’ checks are having a tangible impact in kids’ lives.”