The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How can students understand and convey meaning, intent, personal experience, identity, and community by creating art?
Our annual FREE Shakespeare in the Park program is an excellent opportunity for students to experience a classical theatrical performance and bring their own modern experience in. This year we presented Twelfth Night, an event that had an excellent turnout with over 250 families. This performance was interpreted through a modern lens, which helps youth see the timelessness of the story motifs.
Our summer reading program collaboration with the public library was an example of collaborative art-making. Over 80 children, families, and educators and SAC members painted 10 window panels to create a mural to celebrate the ocean and reading accomplishments of our youth. It proved to be a great way to understand that together we accomplish much more than we can individually.
Our Art in the Market hands-on art-making booth at the Lemhi County Farmers Market was another way we engaged the community in making meaningful connections to diverse cultural practices, discussing a bigger question, exploring a theme, or learning about a tradition. We were excited to have a booth celebrating Juneteenth, as many in our area are unfamiliar with the historical significance of the holiday.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
We use a variety of methods to assess student learning, including face to face interaction, feedback from teachers and community educators, and project evidence. We rely mainly on face-to-face interactions, as this helps us design future programs.
Art in the Market allows us to receive immediate feedback, and student responses to prompts created meaningful discussions among youth and families regarding the cultural significance of art, holidays, and traditions. Through guided questions, youth and families were able to make connections to the broader impact of art. Examples include:
“So glad to see stuff like this happening in Salmon!” Jean F, visitor
“Thanks for helping kids craft, I’ve never seen [paper weaving] before.” Sue P, 5yo
“We loved ours! Thank you for providing these!” Cordia A, 10yo
“I recently learned about this holiday, and had never heard of it before! I love that the Arts Council is spreading the word so kids actually know about this.” Kate Y, community member
In addition, our board members include current and former secondary school teachers. They bring valuable knowledge of curriculum and instruction and incorporate events such as Shakespeare in the Park and Art Sacks activities into their respective units.
One thing that surprised and encouraged us was how receptive our community was to Juneteenth programming! This was our second year celebrating Juneteenth at the local farmers market. Sometimes it can be challenging to bring diverse perspectives into small towns, especially in areas like ours which lack diversity (demographically we are 95% white)–but the community’s reaction to our programming was a breath of fresh air. Many folks had not yet heard of this holiday and were interested to learn and discuss. Others were aware, but surprised to see it making an appearance. Many people engaged in our programming and still others thanked us for spreading the word! This is a great leaning moment for us as we strive to be an organization that values and promotes diversity.
Overall we took great joy in these projects and received excellent feedback. In particular during Covid when people are looking for anything new, there was a special appreciation for arts programming. Covid forced us to adapt, and in some ways think smaller. How to do things safely and meet people where they are. One thing we aim to do moving forward, and we would encourage others to do the same, is to plan farther ahead. We are at a stage with Covid where larger programs are again possible. Outdoor crowds are fine, and medium sized indoor events are also possible. In addition, school is getting back to normal, past the chaotic stage of virtual learning. We do go big like we were doing before! But with Covid still lingering, these projects take more advanced planning and forethought than they once did. As we grow not only the number of programs, but also their size and impact, we must plan more carefully and partner more intentionally if we are to continue to grow our impact.