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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
September 15, 2015

New Victory Teaching Artists: Arts Ed in Action!

New Victory Teaching Artist Spica Wobbe at a Puppetry Kids Week
This week is National Arts in Education Week, a week devoted to promoting the value of the arts—dance, music, theater, literature, design and visual arts—as core academic subjects in schools. At The New Victory, we believe that the performing arts have the power to spark young imaginations and give kids the tools for learning in all disciplines. As the largest provider of live performance to NYC schools and after-school programs, we partner with more than 160 schools and serve over 40,000 students each year. Our New Victory Education Partner schools enjoy $2 student tickets, free classroom workshops, and online resource guides and professional development for educators interested in incorporating the arts into their lesson plans.

We also provide opportunities for kids and their families to explore the performing arts by learning new art skills inspired by the performances they see on the New Victory stage. These public engagement activities—from at-home Family Activities and pre-show lobby activities to Family Workshops and Kids Weeks—enhance kids' experiences as both audience members and future patrons of the arts. And, of course, they have lots of fun!New Victory Teaching Artist Liz Bolick at a pre-show Arts Express

In honor of National Arts in Education Week, we wanted to share some thoughts and stories from our New Victory Teaching Artists—our "boots on the ground," as it were. This ensemble of 55 arts educators possesses a diverse range of skills, including acting, playwriting, music, puppetry, hip hop, street theater, circus arts and contemporary dance. Together they develop comprehensive explorations of the art forms and themes presented onstage. Our Teaching Artists work in classrooms as part of the Education Partnership Program, and they also lead many of our Public Engagement programs. If you've ever come early or stayed late at the New Vic to participate in a fun activity, you've probably met at least one of them.

So, why do our TAs do what they do? We asked what inspires them and what kind of impact they believe they have. Here are some of our favorite answers.

How do you share your art forms with students and families?

"My circus, clowning and physical comedy skills create excitement, fun and lots of laughter.  Kids are fascinated by my antics and tricks and want to play! They want to experience the skills they have seen in the theater, so I perform and demonstrate these skills up close and help them get hands-on experience."

"My primary art form is movement theater, though I work professionally in acting, directing, design and dance. I get to share this work with students and families through workshops, public performances and edu-taining at special events. There is nothing greater for me than watching a family learn, explore, and laugh through the arts."

Teaching Artist WT McRae at a Circus Kids Week; Teaching Artist Drew Petersen and Education Staffer Renata Melillo Townsend at a Theater Kids Week

What does your engagement with students and families add to their theatergoing experiences? Why is it important?

"Teaching young people and their families art form-based lessons offers them a frame of empathy for the work the performers are doing. We often hear families say, 'I had no idea how challenging this is!' I think this makes them feel more connected to the person they will be watching onstage." 

"Too many kids in too many schools are having their arts programs cut. Many kids learn more physically—they need to move and play. Music, circus, dance, theater and puppetry—all art forms—help reach students in different and deeper ways."

"Hands-on experience with the form gives students and families permission and the necessary language to confidently share their opinions. For instance, 'I loved that show, because they used this artistic principle we were learning about,' or, 'I am glad I saw it, but it wasn't for me because...' That discourse is important."

"Artistry needs to be passed down to younger generations. Allowing kids to experience live theater and to meet living, breathing artists shows them the possibilities that exist to become artists themselves." 

TA Josh Matthews at a pre-show Arts Express; TA Skyler Sullivan at the Family Benefit

What's your favorite memory of a kid you've taught?

"We were in a 2nd grade classroom facilitating a workshop in which kids played with marionettes and acted out fairytales. One kid exuberantly raised his hand and asked if the three little pigs would be in the show. We explained that the show was the story of Sleeping Beauty and that there were no pigs. Insistent, the kid told us that he had a pig puppet at home and would be happy to lend it out to Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company for their show." 

"In the middle of a workshop for The Light Princess last year, one little boy grabbed my arm during the first activity and said 'This is really fun!'  A few minutes later we were telling secrets when he told me 'people think I'm really smart…but I just listen.'"

"One very withdrawn 3rd grade boy almost never spoke. He barely looked anyone in the eye, and some of his teachers considered him a "trouble-maker" for being so distant. For a classroom performance, he chose to do a gymnastic streamer solo.  When I asked him what music he would like, he asked for rock 'n' roll. He choreographed and performed a totally amazing piece to a song by The Rolling Stones, which made the audience go wild. He focused, worked really hard on his steps and did a spectacular job. It was stunning and incredibly brave."
Teaching Artists Margot Fitzsimmons and Shelah Marie leading classroom workshops at an Education Partner school
Contributions from WT McRae, Liz Bolick and Renata Melillo Townsend
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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