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Diversity, the Hallmark of ChathamArts Residency Programs

By Gina Harrison and Molly Matlock

Chatham County Arts Council


From drama residencies to screen printing workshops, public school students in North Chatham County participated in a wealth of educational learning experiences presented by ChathamArts in partnership with Briar Chapel. Participants ranged from elementary and middle school students through high school, from local teaching artists to internationally known performers. During the 2009–2010 year ChathamArts coordinated nine residencies and awarded grants of more than $11,000. 

Erin Dangler led two sessions for 4th graders this year, with Bonnie Russell at North Chatham and with Maria Cuthbert at Perry Harrison. Her work combines drama and literacy studies to enhance social studies and natural history course work.

A unique collaborative program happened for the first time with Dawn Streets’ Envirothon Club at Perry Harrison. Envirothon is an Environmental Education program that focuses on five content areas— aquatics, wildlife, soils, forestry, and current environmental issues.  Students study and learn the curriculum in preparation for regional and state competitions held in the Spring.

Thanks to Emma Skurnick and Vidabeth Benson, two local artists, who used art to teach the curriculum to this year's 26-member team of 6-8th grade students. Ms. Skurnick worked with the group on drawing plants, focusing on leaves. In two, one-hour sessions students made amazing progress in observing and accurately drawing leaves that they will have to identify at competition.  Under Ms. Benson's guidance, students made stencils of their drawings and are using them to screen print images on t-shirts, cards, paper, and fabric. According to Marissa Stephenson, "In Envirothon when we had the Art sessions, I liked Ms. Skurnick a lot because she really focused on slowing down and detail. I noticed that my drawing skills improved. And we finished screen printing. the print looked amazing!"

Another unique program reaching the entire community was the residency and performance by the world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and plays an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world. Trombonist, Larry O'Brien is the orchestra's current musical director. Thanks to funds from Briar Chapel, ChathamArts and the Northwood High School Instrumental Music Department had the opportunity to bring this exceptional ensemble to Chatham County for a special public concert. Music and Theatre students got to spend the day setting up for the show, working with the band members, and the NHS Jazz Ensemble opened the show with selections in preparation for their Disney Jazz Celebration competition.

"Not all students learn the same say," says NC Arts Council Arts in Education Director, Linda Bamford. "But studies show that most students learn from arts residencies that use creativity and hands-on engagement as a means to teach core curricula."

Florida Department of Education research in 2008 found that the more arts credits a student takes in  high school, the greater results on SAT and FCAT and a stronger likelihood of high school graduation. In 2009, the Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with higher concentrations of arts classes, experiences, and resources had the city’s highest graduation rates.  

2007 data from the College Board reveals that high school students who took four years of arts and
music classes scored 98 points higher on their SAT than students who took only one‐half year or less.   

According to a 2008 Study by Americans for the Arts, students involved in extended arts in education programming for one year are four times more likely to score higher on tests, to pursue higher education, and to volunteer in their communities.

We are so pleased to have become part of this fabulous artist in residency program developed and programmed by ChathamARts. We are fortunate to have the broad spectrum of well known artists and emerging talents right here in Chatham County. To find out how you or your child might become part of this excellent program, contact ChathamArts by email or phone (919) 542-0394.

We would love to hear about your experience in a residency program - please share with us below!



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