It’s a week to celebrate the transformative power of the arts in education. Here at Arts for Learning Virginia, we served more than 78,000 students during 2019/2020. We’ve collected thoughts from some of those we’ve impacted plus from some of our talented artists. Enjoy!
Mila Stith, student violinist, Portsmouth Public Schools: “I liked when we got to play in front of our family and friends. Sometimes my teachers would come and support us too. It made me feel good so I could show them what I could do. My mom would be so happy and proud of me and my brother.”
Jamita Stith, parent of two student violinists: “Teachers come, teachers go, but the fact that every spring they had violin coming, it gave the kids something to look forward to. And music is very, very, very important. My kids practiced twice a week and they got to take a violin home if they needed it.”
Tina Culver, Teaching Artist for Strings Impact: “If there hadn’t had been programs like this available for me, my childhood would have been so much different. It’s important for me to feel that I can pay it forward and be a part of growing positivity in the community.”
After-School Creative Enrichment (ACE) Theater Residency in Norfolk
Joy Osho, Parent: “My kids both participated in an Arts for Learning program, and they loved it. Now all they want to do is sing, dance, act, and make people laugh!! Chris has found his love for comedy. Harmony has really grown into a young artist since participating in this program.”
Christopher Mathews, Norfolk Public Schools’ educator: “We put them in a place that said your story matters even if it’s a hard story to tell and you telling it can be therapeutic for you. But it can also be something that brightens the world through the creativity you bring.”
Brittany Cottrill, Parent: “I could see my daughter’s confidence and understanding of emotions greatly increase during this program. She helped out behind the scenes and was very proud of herself. She showed compassion at home toward me in ways I hadn’t seen before.”
Mikayla Cottrill, Student: “I really liked the activities that we got to do, especially the ones that helped us with the acting part. And I liked that the (teaching artists) were fine, even when we were still learning how to do everything. During the performance, people on stage were helping each other. I liked the performance because people were able to see the scenes that we’d put together.”
Rhythm and Me Adaptive Dance Residency in Portsmouth
Natasha Leshanski, Teaching Artist: “We want the kids to feel confident, we want them to be moving their bodies, and we want them to enjoy themselves. So everything else takes a back seat to those things. We’re constantly telling them, ‘Of course you can do more things. That feeling you’re feeling is discomfort because you’re trying something new.’ So as long as they’re willing to put themselves out there, it’s success day after day.”
Monica Morgan, Parent: “The number one benefit for Naomi was social, meeting new peers. Learning to follow instructions, step-by-step, was also very positive. The instructors did marvelous. They came down to their level and they were very patient with each and every one of the children.”
Naomi Morgan, Student: (Favorite part of program): “Dancing DJ! Doing dance moves!”
A4L Teaching and Performing Artists
Joel Casanova, Dancer: Arts for Learning helps me support myself in a way that’s also meaningful. I don’t have to sacrifice making ends meet with supporting kids and doing what I love. The thing that pays my bills is also affecting children for the rest of their lives.”
Via Goode, Storyteller: “I was fortunate enough when I was growing up to take clarinet lessons, and I lived in a school district where I was able to take field trips and I know what a difference it made to me. And so being on the other end where you’re giving it to the schools so that the children can experience that is just very, very rewarding for me.”
Jennifer Gammill, Singer/Musician: “I feel like Arts for Learning is on my team, and they’re like, ‘Hey, we want you to be an artist. You can make money doing what you do.’ I feel super supported.”
Sheila Arnold, Storyteller: “I love watching kids’ engagement whether it’s laughter or just seeing the look on their face. They’re deep into the story and they can’t find themselves out. They’re cool middle-schoolers and all of a sudden they’re wrapped around my finger and they didn’t know they were going to do that.”
“People say, ‘They’re kindergarteners— they sat for an hour! How did you do that?’ I love it when teachers ask me how I did that, and I say, ‘I kept it interesting and they learned.’”
We want to keep making an impact on children’s lives. We’ve shown that we can adapt and continue our mission despite the challenges of COVID-19, but we need your support so that we can keep moving forward. Please click here to make a tax-deductible contribution—any amount helps.
National Arts in Education Week celebrates the transformative power of the arts in education. Passed by Congress in 2010 through House Resolution 275, the week is designated to bring attention to this cause for elected officials and educational decision makers across the country and to support equitable access to the arts for all students. For more information, visit Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy group.