Monday, February 27, 2012

Random Acts of Culture

I would like to welcome Guest Blogger, Barbara Poole. Barbara is the Band Director at our school. She along with the rest of our Fine Arts Department will be recognized at next week's NC Middle School Association Conference as the Region 8 Team of the Year. I thought this would be a great time to recognize an outstanding program that they began last year.

"Random Acts of Culture" began as an idea after viewing a  news report about a "Random Act of Culture" in a shopping mall in a nearby city.  In this news report, an opera singer randomly burst out into an aria and entertained the shoppers who were completely surprised and amazed.  The idea of taking the arts out of the concert halls and museums and directly to the people was exciting!  Why couldn't we do something similar in our school? What a great way to get more Arts exposure to kids!  Thus, "Random Acts of Culture" was born.  The five Fine Arts teachers in our school collaborated on ways to make this happen and wrote several grants (Arts Council and Target Stores) to help fund artists fees.

Our version of "Random Acts" takes place in the cafeteria during lunchtime.  The students are not aware when a "Random Act" is coming, so the element of surprise adds to the excitement.  Artists are selected based on their uniqueness and kid-appeal. We try to draw artists from our community and surrounding areas and ALL ARTISTS participating in our project ARE PAID.  We feel it is important to acknowledge to the students that being an artist is a possible career choice and we, as consumers of the arts, support their career choice. The artists perform in an informal setting as students are eating lunch. This creates an atmosphere that allows students to observe, react, discuss, interact and relate to art in a way that cannot be achieved through our traditional arts classrooms.

Our project goals are:

  1.  to build appreciation, participation and support for the Arts
  2.  to nurture future consumers of the Arts
  3.  develop in students a sense of their power to create
  4.  expand students' perceptions of what "Art" is
  5.  to promote the understanding that everyone can enjoy the Arts and can be artistic

Artists that have performed or will be performing as a part of this project include an Ice Sculptor, a Steel Drummer, a Bagpiper, a Harpist, a Brass Quintet, Ballet Dancers from a professional troupe, a mosaic artist, a "Statue" street performer, Contemporary "Body Bag" Dancers, a harmonic player, a mime, a Mariachi Band, a Fiber artist, and others.
An ice sculpture of our school mascot created during a Random Act of Culture. The sculpture was displayed during our Honor Roll program.

The project has been well received not only by the students, but the faculty and staff as well.  In addition, it has generated a high level of collaboration within our Fine Arts team to plan "Random Act" events, write grants, and to create bulletin boards with vocabulary word walls and pictures in the cafeteria that relate to each artist. Each "Random Act" generates discussions in our Arts classes about the artists and their craft. As result of this project, students' arts vocabulary has expanded, they are more aware of arts opportunities not only in our school, but also in our community and are more excited to be at school! They love the anticipation of what the next "Random Act" might be and when. Our events generally happen once per month and we negotiate a fee with each artist separately.

Barbara Poole

If you would like more information, please contact me and I will pass along Barbara's contact information.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blog for Students

Creating a blog for students has been something that I have wanted to do for awhile. To be really honest, I have actually started a couple over the last few years. These initial attempts were blogs created through our email system and just did not appeal to me. This was primarily due to the fact that comments were not allowed. I wanted my student blog to have all the advantages of a typical blog. A blog that allowed for reader interaction.

Finally, I have the blog that allows for that interaction and meets the standards of our county technology department. I am really pleased with this blog overall and hope that it helps students find the necessary information they need. 

Check out my new student blog, Media Musings.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Decor and More

As I peruse blogs, I must admit I frequently find myself with library envy. Big open spaces, windows and high ceilings all cause me to be incredibly jealous of other library spaces. Top this with my inability to decorate and you have a bland space. I have been trying to break out of this mode for the last couple of years, so I have tried to find ways to bring some visual interest to the library.

Signage was one of the first elements I used to improve the overall appeal. Various other improvements have come along the way, most of which go relatively unnoticed. Over the last few months I have added some items that have drawn great attention. First, I added these blue beanbags.

Now, I must admit these beanbags were much smaller than I anticipated. I decided to put them out anyway. They were very well-received. The group that has had the most positive comments have been 8th grade boys. This is especially strange given that they are among our largest students and these seats are so small. The best comment from one of these boys was, "We love these chairs. They make a great addition to the library."

When I purchased the beanbags, I also bought this flower pillow. 

While this is super-cute, it is not the color I expected (can you tell I must've had an off day the day I ordered these items). I thought I was ordering a flower with alternating blue colors. Regardless of the fact that this lacks serious color coordination, students have loved it. They hold it, carry it around. 

I recently read a blog entry that had pictures. The focus of these pictures was not of these shelf markers, but I thought it was such a great use for these magazine containers, so I created my own.
Unfortunately, I don't remember where I got this idea, so if it was your idea that I stole, please let me know so I can give credit.

Here's to a future with many more improvements ahead. How are you brightening your space?