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.

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