YPT Collaborates with Life Pieces to Masterpieces to Tell the Story of Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Over the past three weeks, I’ve had the immense pleasure to work with the young men of Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM) on one of our current special projects, a new play we’re creating with the Ward 7 community about historic Woodlawn Cemetery.  As soon as I knew we’d be working in Ward 7, my home neighborhood, I knew LPTM would be a great partner for it.  LPTM is an extraordinary mentorship program for young men in Ward 7.  They give young men life and art skills that allow them to embrace their past and present and prepare for their future.  The young men explore leadership, responsibility, community and create paintings based on their own life stories.  Our group, the Legacy class, mostly consisting of 11 year old young men, began working with me about two and a half weeks ago on workshops exploring Woodlawn Cemetery, its history and the history of those interred at Woodlawn.  We explored how the site relates to our neighborhood and how learning about some of the extraordinary people buried at Woodlawn can help all of us better understand our history and prepare for our future.  For example, Senator Blanche Bruce, born a slave who ultimately became the first African American to serve a full term in the US Senate, is buried there.  Congressman Langston, first African American Congressman from Virginia and first civilian dean of Howard University Law School, is buried there.  As well as thousands of extraordinary women who were scholars, artists, educators and homemakers — a total of almost 36,000 people, many in unmarked graves, having been moved from previous sites throughout the city.

After we explored the history and the young men took a tour of the cemetery, we began sketching.  They sketched about 15 pictures and then chose 7 of those to paint.  First their teachers set up huge blank canvasses on the wall.  Each young man was given three primary colors and tasked with creating their own rich textures and colors and painting the canvasses freely, resulting in about 12 different colors of canvas.  Once these were dry the next day, the students figured out what figures or shapes they needed to create to convey their sketch onto canvas.  They then picked from the larges canvases they’d painted and drew the shapes on the back, then cutting these shapes out of the canvases.  Then they painted other canvases as backdrops for their paintings and, once they were dry, laid out the figures, symbols and landmarks from Woodlawn they’d created onto the backdrop.  They then sewed these patterns and shapes onto the canvas and stretched the canvases onto wooden frames.

The seven resulting paintings, all inspired by Woodlawn, will serve as the backdrop and setting for our readings of the play we’re creating with the community.  Plus, these young men have created poems and monologues about their insights and inspirations from Woodlawn, all of which will be added into the stew of the play, mixing their voices into a tapestry of voices about Woodlawn that will not only share our history but also our community.   The resulting paintings are extraordinary and inspired — I can’t wait for you to see them and meet these young men at the readings we’ll hold on September 11th at Harman Hall downtown, and at Woodlawn Cemetery, as part of a huge volunteer and service celebration at the site.  I hope you’ll come see us and join in our community!

 

You can learn more about YPT’s Woodlawn Cemetery project on YPT’s website.

You can learn more about Life Pieces to Masterpieces here.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

A Message from YPT’s Producing Artistic Director and CEO

This season, as we celebrate our 15th Birthday, we’re inviting you to enter our work in a whole new way, to gain your insights into the work by sharing our own and asking you to engage with us. In the coming weeks and months all of us in the company and on staff will be posting entries about the work that we’re doing, from programs and specials projects to development and production. We hope you’ll enjoy this bird’s eye view of how we do what we do and that it’ll inspire you to join us in helping to give students the tools they need to engage the world. Visit often to catch up on what’s been happening and stay connected with what’s next.   Welcome to our community, our family, our company. We hope to see you again soon.

David
Producing Artistic Director and CEO

The Need for Arts Education

by David Andrew Snider

Recently I talked with a board member from Theatre Communications Group (TCG), of which YPT is a member.   The TCG board was reaching out to all its members to find out what’s happening in our organizations and how TCG can better support us.  At the end of the conversation came the big question:  “Besides fundraising,” (which is assumed right now) “what’s your biggest challenge today?”  “Ensuring our relevance,” I said immediately.  “What do you mean?”

It’s a critical time for arts education and for live theatre in general.   While so many people spend more and more of their time in the virtual world, our work can be more important than ever.  To keep us connected, to keep us talking, to keep us alive to one another.  When push comes to shove and we’re talking about cuts to school budgets for books, to shelter, food and clothing providers, so many people today, even in nonprofits, will say “well, it’s not like the arts are a human service.”  To which I say, and said to the DC City Council last summer “The arts are a human service.  They are a human service.”  As much as we need to eat, sleep and clothe ourselves to be human, we need to express ourselves.  We need to be able to share with our neighbors and the rest of the world what’s bothering us, how others can help us and what we fear or dream of for our future.  When we cut off self-expression, when we deny the inherent need to communicate and be heard, we see the frustration and violence that results.  We see the school shootings, the fights in the hallway, the teen suicide.  We see how social media has again sparked in all of us the itch to be known, to see and be seen, to always be in touch.  So as we’re ensuring that critical needs are met in these challenging times, I think we need to consider not only what will get us through the night, through the next month or next couple of years, but also what we want to be, look like and represent when we get through it.  What kind of society do we want to have?  How do we know what people need if they can’t tell us?  And how can we envision our future if we’re not able to dream?

A Guide to Acronyms and Agencies in DC’s Arts Education Landscape

by Brigitte Pribnow Moore

As an LEA, DCPS is under pressure from NCLB to meet AYP each year. Thanks to Title I of the ESEA, the most underserved schools have more resources to help students meet DCPS Learning Standards when the OSSE administers the DC CAS this year. Isn’t the NAEP happening soon as well? Better consult the OPGD for information on upcoming funding opportunities for arts educators. Hopefully the DCCAH can help this spring. Too bad so few government funders accept the WRAG.

Say what?

Need some help navigating the alphabet soup of DC’s arts education landscape? Here are some handy definitions and online resources:

LEA – Local Education Agency, which may include a school district, or a charter school. 

DCPS – District of Columbia Public Schools.

NCLB – No Child Left Behind, United States federal legislation signed into law January 8, 2002, aimed at improving the performance of U.S. primary and secondary schools by 2014, by:

  • Increasing standards of accountability for states, school districts and schools;
  • Providing parents with more flexibility in choosing which schools their children attend;
  • Increasing focus on teaching every student to read;
  • Re-authorizing the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (ESEA), a statute which funds primary and secondary education.

President Obama recently laid out his proposal for a complete overhaul of No Child Left Behind, which is currently being considered by Congress. Check out this recent Washington Post article  for more information.

ESEA – Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 – statute reauthorized under NCLB, funding primary and secondary education, specifically for educators’ professional development, instructional materials, resources to support educational programs, and promotion of parental involvement

Title I – First Title of the ESEA, distributes funding to schools and school districts with 40% or more students from low-income families (qualifying under U.S. Census definitions of low-income).

AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress, a measurement defined by the U.S. No Child Left Behind Act that allows the U.S. Department of Education to demonstrate a school’s progress towards reaching the national goal of 100% student proficiency in Reading and Mathematics in all schools by the year 2014. Standardized assessments are used as a diagnostic tool that determines how schools need to improve and where financial resources should be allocated. All K-12 DC public schools are required to demonstrate AYP in the area of reading/language arts, mathematics, and either graduation rates, for high schools and districts, or attendance rates, for elementary and middle/junior high schools. A school that fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years becomes a “School in Need of Improvement”. A school that fails to meet AYP for five consecutive years may be “Restructured”.

DC BAS – DC Benchmark Assessment System, which helps DCPS track student progress and achievement throughout the year for students in grades 3-10.

DC CAS – DC Comprehensive Assessment System, which is administered once a year in DCPS classrooms and demonstrates how well students are meeting grade-level standards in the areas of English Language Arts and Mathematics. Every DC Public School has been assigned an NCLB status based upon its performance on the DC CAS. Every year a school does not meet AYP,  it is “flagged” with a status that requires more attention to that school. If a school does not meet AYP for five years in a row, it enters “restructuring” status requiring a significant school turnaround. The test is taken by students in grades 3-8 and grade 10, and administered each April.

OSSE – Office of the State Superintendent for Education, which sets statewide policies, provides resources and support, and exercises accountability for all public education in DC, including managing the DC CAS.

NAEP – National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is a test that is taken nationally and allows each state to compare its students with students in other states.

OPGD Office of Partnerships and Grants Development, a DC agency that establishes partnerships between public and private, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and pursues financial support and technical assistance from public and private sources toward improving the quality of life for DC residents. OPGD has a wonderful website that shares upcoming DC grant opportunities.

DCCAH – DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a DC agency with a mission “to provide grants, programs and educational activities that encourage diverse artistic expressions and learning opportunities, so that all District of Columbia residents and visitors can experience the rich culture of our city.” They provide a variety of competitive grants for both organizations and individual artists.

WRAG – Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, which promotes and supports effective, strategic, and efficient charitable investment in the Greater Washington region. They have established a Common Grant Application format, aimed at making the grant process more efficient, which is used by many funders in the DC region.

Hope this list is helpful. Does anyone have any other suggestions for acronyms we should include?

Arts Education Conference Coming in June!

by Gabby Randle

Hey there Arts Educators,

Here is an amazing opportunity to sharpen your teaching artist skills and hang out with other like minded education leaders from around the country.

Check out the Americans for the Arts Half Century Summit’s Arts Education Pre Conference (June 24). The full summit is June 25-27, but there are two days of Pre Conference devoted to several fields including arts education.

With a focus on sustainable, student-centered arts education this pre conference is designed to facilitate collaboration between arts education professionals. This will be an action oriented forum that aims at appealing to our top decision makers to move arts education into a place of priority in education funding and research. The goal is to have participants leave with the ability to develop support for arts education in their own communities.

Check out an interview with keynote speaker Derrick Ashong and respond to the Green Paper on arts education available on ARTSblog.

Scholarships are still available!

http://convention.artsusa.org/

Have any of you attended Americans for the Arts’ annual conference before? How was it?

Tips For Elementary School Teaching Artists

by Nicole Jost

In my experience working with elementary school students, classroom management is a big challenge. I find myself entering the space with lots of enthusiasm and a desire to engage these young students, only to be derailed when I can’t get them to listen to instructions. Unlike classroom teachers, who see their students every weekday, I typically only work with students once a week. So how can teaching artists build effective classroom management strategies with such limited time? And how can we do that without becoming evil (read: not fun) teacher dictators?

I got one great idea from a teaching artist who works with YPT, Meg Greene. In her classrooms she uses a tool called “Star Audience Member.” To get students to buy in to this tool, I first asked them what makes a good audience member. (My students offered suggestions like “listening quietly,” “staying in your seat,” “looking at the person who’s talking,” etc.) These traits became my criteria for picking one Star Audience Member per class. The Star gets their name written up on the board, and I also gave him/her a YPT pen as a small prize.

What I love about this tool is that a) you can use it to encourage students to focus (i.e. “I’m still looking for today’s Star Audience Member!”) and b) because the students themselves identify what makes a good audience, they understand the teaching artist’s choice for the Star. A few times, my students guessed who I was going to pick based on their observations during class. There aren’t many complaints of unfairness because basically, they made the rules.

What other strategies do people suggest?

Interview with Katherine Latterner

Theater Educates interviews a different arts educator each month, to get his or her take on our field. This month we talk to Katherine Latterner of Fillmore Arts Center.

What is your current position?

Katherine: I am currently Principal of the Fillmore Arts Center, a District of Columbia Public School.  Fillmore provides the arts education to 12 DCPS elementary schools and serves 2,600 students at two sites.  Artist teachers provide visual arts, music (including strings and band), dance and drama instruction.

How did you become an arts educator?

Katherine: I began studying piano and voice at an early age and began my college career as a music performance major.  I realized that I would not become a concert pianist and switched my major to English.  After college I worked at a non-profit but continued my involvement in music.  When my children were very young, I discovered they had minimal music instruction in school and I began volunteering as a music teacher.  I studied Orff and Kodaly and became a music teacher at Fillmore where I taught music (and creative writing for 14 years).  I obtained a masters in educational leadership and became the Director of Education for the Musical Theater Center, returning to Fillmore as the principal five years ago.

Did you have any mentors in the field? If so, how did they influence you?

Katherine: My family was always involved in music (mother and grandmothers).  My first real mentor was my piano and voice teacher, Lewis Grubb.  We lived in a small town in Delaware, but he had performed in Philadelphia and New York and exposed me to a wealth of literature and experiences (singing with adult groups in Wilmington and Philadelphia).

There is a lot of debate among educators, administrators and policymakers about arts integration vs. art for arts sake. What is your opinion of this debate? Do you favor one side over the other?

Katherine: I think it makes perfect sense to make connections between the arts and other disciplines.  Using the arts to teach numeracy, literacy, social and physical sciences allows children with varying learning styles to more easily access this information and to use both right and left brain modalities.  However, the push has been to have arts education focus in Arts Integration to the exclusion of the arts as important disciplines.  I am a strong proponent of having a high quality arts education for arts sake.

What advice do you give young people who want to make a career in the arts?

Katherine: Pursuing the arts as a career may not be the most financially rewarding choice (except for a very few people), but it is certainly a personally rewarding choice.  If you have a passion for the arts,  you should pursue it.  Examine the multiple ways you can work in the arts (performer, teacher, production, etc.) .

What advice do you give early-career arts educators?

Katherine: Do not neglect the impact of technology on the students of today.  Explore ways you can incorporate technology and please keep your activities interesting and “fun” for your young students.  You job is to foster a love of the arts in your students so they can not only be participants, but also arts audience members and supporters.

Every educator has a different definition of success. Can you tell us about a time when you felt successful as an arts educator?

Katherine: I have had students go on to great commercial success, but it is the everyday successes (the shy child who performs a dance or sings a solo on stage, the class cut-up who really shines as the “king” in the drama performance, the beautiful ceramic bowl made by a child who said he was “no good” in art) that make me feel most successful as an arts educator.