The Surry Arts Council looks to continue its programs in local schools following overwhelming response and support from county, city and academy schools.
According to Director of Programs and Development Melissa Sumner, local school officials felt so strongly about some of the offerings they transported students to the Andy Griffith Playhouse for many of the shows.
Sumner estimated more than 10,000 students in graded K-12 have been transported to a performance at the playhouse and at least one cultural arts program has been sent to each of the 24 schools served by the council.
“We did a survey in the schools and found out in many cases 95 percent of the students had never been to the playhouse for a theater performance,” said Sumner. “The participation rates and support from business, schools and communities has really helped us keep the quality high on what we have offered. Everyone is getting so much more bang for the buck. We definitely started the season out on a high note.”
The ability to deliver these programs comes at a time when many school systems are looking for even more ways to integrate the arts into science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the curriculum.
“The response (from students) has been wonderful,” said Flat Rock Elementary Assistant Principal LuAnn Llewellyn. “We have a drama club here at the school which meets twice weekly. Our students now only perform they bring back what they see at other shows and try to make their sets better. I have seen the arts really bring some students out of their shells. Students who may not be the strongest in academics have an outlet. It gives them confidence and they feel they have something to contribute.”
Principal Tracey Lewis said the programs have been invaluable for helping students tie the real world to the new standard course of study for the schools. She said students see applications in the classroom from programs the council has provided. The message is clear when it is delivered dramatically. She said it’s an “aha” moment when it all comes together for students and is important for them to have exposure to events they would not be otherwise.
The school program season kicked off with New York City based Theatreworks USA staging “Teacher from the Black Lagoon” for students in grades K-2 in October. This was followed up by BrightStar Childrens’s Theater performing Professor Parsnip’s Lab of Healthy Choices in local schools for grades K-5, as well as American Giants of Science for grades 6-8. The latter show featured actors portraying American scientists.
Fourth grade students will be treated to ballet for young audiences on Dec. 2 as a troupe from NYC will perform a special version of the Nutcracker Ballet. Sumner said a visual arts contest will be held in local schools where the winning artists work will be part of a visual arts component and tell the stories of the music performed by the Winston-Salem Symphony on April 16 and 17.
She said the Earle Theater will be used for the symphony because of its acoustics which will complement the group. The New Jersey ArtsPower troupe is slated to bring the musical Fourscore and Seven to the playhouse for middle school students on Feb. 7 and 10 and the surviving component of North Carolina Shakespeare Festival’s NC Shakes program will perform Hamlet for high school students on March 3 and 6.
Sumner said in addition to these offerings the Traditional Arts Programs programs continue at Cedar Ridge, White Plains and Jones Intermediate schools. One of these programs provided fiddle and guitar lessons three days a week for twelve weeks for students in grades 3-5. Students can continue on at the free lessons provided weekly at the Earle. The council also continues it free monthly movies being shown with a 850 signing up for Polar Express last year.
The council also helped with school Cinderella at Millennium Charter Academy, and shows at Gentry Middle School and help with Christmas and holiday shows and end of the year choral and band concerts. Council Executive Director Tanya Jones estimated that a total of $50,000 was spend on school programming.
“We are one of the few organizations in the state who raise the money for school programs rather than operating at a profit and charge the schools,” said Jones. She said the council also operates on $8,000 in TAPS Grands from the state Arts Commission, another $9,000 from the commissions Cartwheels grant as well as school support. She said a total of $33,000 was raised last year at the Arts Ball and May Days Bake Sale.
Sumner and Jones agreed they are trying to build a future audience not only of students and their parents and said they are seeing results of this evidenced by participation. Jones said this trend continuing is dependent on the annual fundraiser Arts Ball.
This event is slated for Feb. 28 at Cross Creek Country Club with the doors opening at 6 p.m. for patrons. The event includes a silent auction and seated dinner. The Band Of Oz is the featured performers and the event is open to the public. Black tie is optional. She said one hundred percent of the proceeds goes to the cultural programs for local schools. The cost is $75 per person. Interested persons may obtain more information and make reservations by calling 336-786-7998 pr firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 336-719-1952.