The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
What conditions, attitudes and behaviors support creativity and innovative thinking?
Due to Covid-19, the Arts Council cancelled some events in order to observe state and local safety protocols. We were able to complete several learning experiences within the confines of those restrictions in order to meet some of our educational goals and standards for the year.
Our workshop and performances from Tony Memmel highlighted Anchor Standard 8: How to interpret intent and meaning in artistic work. Memmel is a musician who partners with the Lucky Fin project, a non-profit dedicated to helping children adapt with limb differences. In addition to his performances, Memmel discussed and educated students about the adaptations musicians with limb differences or other disabilities must make in order to participate in the creative musical process. Students were able to engage in a question and answer session and participate in a musical sing-along performance. Baroque Music Montana and Shakespeare in the Park brought live classical music and theater, giving students the opportunity to engage with artists working to bring classical genres to new audiences, and explore anchor standard 4: analyzing and interpreting artistic work for presentation.
While we were forced to shutter some of our spring programs due to Covid-19 precautions, we were granted an extension through October and invited Jon Paul, a dancer and choreographer from Los Angeles, to engage students in the community in a week long Bollywood Dance workshop. Students from various schools learned the history and movement of several classic and modern Indian dance styles and participated in dance classes.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Shakespearience is an immersive technical theater experience in which students are taught the aspects of theater from pre-production to performance, including script writing and editing, staging, set design and prop use, costuming, and acting techniques. Students learn and apply the techniques they study throughout the week in workshops coordinating with the English core curriculum classes at the high school. The students also watch a full performance of a Shakespeare play and participate in a question and answer session with the actors to engage and respond to the experience. During their English Language Arts classes the following week, students reflect and respond to assignments in the classroom based on their experiences.
During the “Bollywood in Salmon” week, choreographer Jon Paul engaged Pre-Kindergarten through High School students in dance classes that fused Indian dance history and significance with dance technique. Students at the younger level focused on body movement and use of props while older children learned a choreographed routine. At the end of each workshop, students at the Fernwaters School and Salmon Jr. High performed a choreographed dance routine. Jesse, a 5th grade student at Fernwaters, stated he was excited to learn a new style he had “never heard of before, but it was so much fun!” Students provided feedback through Backstage Dance Studio as well, and one Senior student, Miriam, was excited to learn the classical Kathak and incorporate it into her senior project, which focuses on world dance.
The Salmon Arts Council is always astounded and delighted by the feedback from the community, parents, and students after our theatrical and musical events. A common comment is to bring more and more events like these. Students have often approached artists, performers, or council members, sometimes days or weeks after an event has passed, to let them know how much they appreciate the opportunities the Arts Council is able to bring to Salmon. The high school English teachers look forward to Shakespearience annually, and several have commented that the school would “not be able to afford this experience were it not for the Salmon Arts Council providing the funding necessary.” Without the performances and events provided by the Arts Council, there is limited opportunity for creative expression and arts education in our community. With the lack of resources in our school system, art classes and supplies are often limited or neglected. At each performance, we notice that kids are thriving through the experience of seeing actors or musicians perform arts they’ve never experienced before. This directly ties into our mission to foster creative expression, critical thinking skills, appreciation for and connection to people and cultures outside of the community. It brings each of the council members tremendous joy and deep satisfaction to see the children in our community light up with excitement and inspiration from the programs and performances we are able to bring to rural Lemhi County.
Overall, the Salmon Arts Council would love to continue hosting events that expose students to different cultural experiences. Shakespearience, Baroque Music Montana, and Missoula Children’s Theater (which, unfortunately, was cancelled due to Covid 19 restrictions) are annual programs that always receive a lot of positive feedback from students and the community as a whole. Though there were particular challenges posed for us with the outbreak of Coronavirus and maintaining safety protocols, the Arts Council is proud of what they were able to accomplish in spite of these obstacles. The parents and caregivers within our small town are often in need of extra resources and artistic outlets to cope with the many challenges that come from living in a remote, rural community. We were very proud to bring such successful and immersive programs such as Tony Memmel Musical Performance, Shakespearience, and the Bollywood Dance Workshops to Salmon, and were able to generate new and renewed interest in Arts Council membership and volunteerism.
Looking to the future, the Arts Council plans to expand its summer programs, with board members currently looking into ways to expand our ability to bring further experts in dance, music, theater, and even culinary arts for our programs next year. To keep our community safe during this pandemic, the council is providing creative opportunities for the community and youth to get involved with the arts at a distance and at home through community projects and take-home art kits. With the help of national and local programs as well as reaching into our local resources, the Arts Council can continue to foster creative growth experiences for our youth in Salmon.