Saturday, August 30, 2008

Student Opportunities in the ARts

Posted by Bruce Miller
No, it’s not a typo. The reason the R is capitalized in the word ARts in the headline flying jauntily above this post is because we’re making an acronym. SOAR. I know, I know … it’s a bit forced. But Creative Residency with Arts Professionals wasn’t really working for us.

SOAR is an interactive externship program for high school juniors and seniors with a serious interest in the performing arts. Students who enroll in this after-school initiative have the chance to meet and talk every two weeks with Central Virginia’s top performing arts professionals, from actors/ dancers/ musicians/directors to marketing gurus to scenic designers to fundraisers et al. Each colloquium takes place in a different location—complete with a behind-the-scenes tour. We meet at the Firehouse one week, Richmond Ballet two weeks later, then the Modlin Center, the historic Empire, etc. etc. etc.

The program used to be called an internship, but after receiving some guidance from our friends in education, we now call it an externship. An internship happens when a fully trained student has the opportunity to put her/his training to practical use in a professional environment. An externship happens when an interested student has the opportunity to interact with professionals in the field of interest, providing the student with the insight s/he will need to make an informed decision about her/his future education.

Students who complete the course, which includes attending the sessions and maintaining journals throughout the experience (a grand total of 75 hours of work), receive academic credit from their home high school. It’s pretty cool.

SOAR began under a different name a few years ago as a program of the Carpenter Center. From the beginning a lot of the energy that powered the program came from Barksdale. Most of the funding that has enabled the program in the past came from the Markel Corporation’s donation to the Carpenter Center. On behalf of Greater Richmond’s arts students, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

About three years ago, the program was featured as a national model in Time magazine, including a photo of a Richmond public school student exploring the light board at our historic Empire Theatre.

Last year the SOAR program became an official partnership between Barksdale Theatre and CenterStage, the new name for the expanding Carpenter Center. Barksdale provided the design and management of the program; CenterStage did the fundraising and served as liaison with the schools.

Last spring, CenterStage completed a strategic planning process with Mitchell Korn, a national arts-in-education consultant. They have now announced that their future arts-in-education programs will focus on in-school activities. Consequently, this year, SOAR will be the responsibility of Barksdale Theatre alone.

Information and applications for SOAR 08-09 will be distributed to all Central Virginia high schools, public and private, in October. If you know a teacher or a student who would like to have more information about SOAR, please encourage them to email Janine Serresseque.
Our other SOAR job this fall is to find funding for the program, which is made available to Central Virginia students free-of-charge. If you or some entity you know would be interested in talking with us about this funding opportunity, please encourage them to email Emily Cole.

SOAR is one component of the BTW (Barksdale Theatre Workshop), our comprehensive program designed to connect Barksdale with Greater Richmond's high school drama students and teachers. SOAR is a valuable and nationally-recognized way in which Barksdale Theatre can work with Central Virginia’s many exemplary performing arts organizations (and freelance arts professionals) to meet the needs of our community’s students and schools.

Please help us spread the word about this little known program with your colleagues and friends.
--Bruce Miller

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