Program connects kids, art

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

With help from students in the U’s College of Fine Arts, first-graders at Newman Elementary School will begin learning ballet early next year.

Across town, U students will help sixth-graders at Glendale Elementary to create a storyboard of their lives using film and photo. Also, students at a high school for expecting mothers in Davis County will soon be involved in creating a professional dance routine.

Earlier this month, the College of Fine Arts chose 13 student “scholars” to head semester-long projects in a number of Utah schools, particularly on the west side of Salt Lake City.

Since 2000, U students have participated in ArtsBridge America, which is a national outreach program that helps college students to engage youth in the arts and works with teachers to incorporate art into their lessons.

Founded in 1996 at the University of California, Irvine, ArtsBridge America is now a national network of arts education programs that sends university students to K-12 schools to teach dance, drama, music, art history, world arts and cultures, photography and video.

The U was one of the first universities outside of California to join the program, and now more than 22 colleges and universities in 13 states participate. Kerri Hopkins, a graduate student in film studies who has participated in ArtsBridge for four years now, said that the program has been mutually beneficial to her and the youth with whom she has worked.

“Every year, it’s been really rewarding to see what the kids come up with,” Hopkins said.

Last year, while working on a photography project with children in a west side after-school program, many of whom were refugees, a fifth-grader told Hopkins that she wanted to become a photographer.

“A lot of these students have never taken a picture,” Hopkins said. “I was glad I could expose her to a possibility that she had never thought of before.”

Part of the mission of ArtsBridge is to present teachers with new ways to add art into a number of subjects, said Kristi Burns, director of ArtsBridge at the U and assistant dean for community partnerships in the College of Fine Arts.

“A lot of times school teachers can be overwhelmed with what they have to do and can lose focus on the arts,” Burns said.

ArtsBridge “fills a hole that we have,” she said. Faculty members mentor each project that helps students in the program get hands-on training in teaching the arts, more of which the college wants to do.

“Scholars learn to how to present the arts and hone in on their skills through good teaching practices,” said Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the college.

Although the program is fully supported by the college, funding from outside sources will be needed to meet its goal of more than doubling the number of student scholars during the next 10 years. The college is seeking grants and an outside donor who will continually support the program, Tymas-Jones said.

“College students have a lot of energy and bring fun learning into the classroom while the students they teach get a connection with higher education,” Burns said. “ArtsBridge encourages students to give back and shows them how they can be active artists in their communities.”

[email protected]