Point of View

April 27, 2009, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Education


Participation in the arts provides opportunities for exploration and self expression that foster creative thinking skills, boost self esteem, expand the horizons of the participants, and provide new and innovative ways of learning. Through their ability to communicate information, convey subtleties of culture, and foster the discovery of new ideas, the arts can play a vital role in the lives of children and families. Inclusive and culturally diverse high quality performing arts experiences are a window to the world that can engage people from all backgrounds. Recognizing the value of the arts to all communities, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is dedicated to providing high quality programs for children, families, and teachers that feature live performing arts experiences and active learning in and through the arts.

As students study music, theatre and dance, they become actively engaged in learning as they explore their creativity, nurture healthy bodies, and strengthen their respect for themselves and others within a supportive framework that gives them an important foundation for the future. Throughout underserved communities around the Arsht Center and in Miami-Dade County, at-risk young people lack the resources and role models that can help channel their talents and energy in positive ways. Without direction, focus, or guidance, particularly during the summer months, these young people are exposed to the dangerous realities that exist in their communities including drugs, violence, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, and crime. 

One upcoming education initiative is Ailey Camp, a summer day camp founded by the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation that will serve approximately 90-100 at risk children ages 11-14. Taking place at the Center, campers will come from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds throughout Miami-Dade County to participate in disciplined dance training, creative writing instruction, personal development and communication workshops, as well as recreational and cultural field trips. Ailey campers develop a respect for themselves and others that will impact their lives far beyond the two-week program by stretching their bodies and minds while develop important life skills before their entry into the challenging years of high school.

Studying the arts contributes to developing students who take ownership of learning and fosters the development of a dynamic, cohesive and exciting teaching environment. There is ample evidence that when the performing arts are a strong component of a school curriculum, test scores improve while dropout rates and absenteeism declines. In a time when standardized testing dominates many classrooms, an arts infused curriculum invigorates the learning process, provides opportunities for creative problem solving, and makes class content accessible to multiple learning styles all while bringing the arts into a student’s everyday life.

The Center’s Jazz Roots educational programming is a perfect example of how a sensational music series can teach and inspire young people by offering unique opportunities to experience the performing arts up close and in person.  As part of the Jazz Roots series, students and their teachers are offered an in-depth look at the “behind the scenes” workings of a live sound check and the technical aspects necessary to produce a world-class concert.   Students have the opportunity to speak with internationally acclaimed jazz musicians about the music, the artistic process and the practical skills needed for a career in the arts and attending the live concert at no cost to the student, teacher or school. This multi-layered approach provides programming that engages and involves tudents while also providing resources including study guides, listening kits, lesson plans and curriculum materials for the school system.

A study of the benefits of arts participation commissioned by The Wallace Foundation highlights the potential of early participation in the arts. The report argues, “Early exposure is often key to developing life-long involvement in the arts.” The study’s key findings put forth that “families, community leaders and public policymakers should therefore work toward building demand for the arts by introducing more Americans to engaging arts experiences, especially when they are young.”

In an effort to engage families in Miami Dade County and contribute to community building, the Arsht Center offers Family Fest, a free series that makes the performing arts attractive and accessible to families. Family Fest, which takes place on Saturday afternoons throughout the year, starts on the Center’s outdoor Plaza and then moves the action indoors for a free performance in the Ziff Ballet Opera House or Knight Concert Hall. The outdoor activities include performances, hands-on demonstrations, and mini-workshops that provide active and engaging opportunities for parents and their children. Families can make a puppet, learn a song, or try out a few new dance moves while learning about the arts and other cultures.

The Adrienne Arsht Center’s arts education and community outreach programs are exposing thousands of children and their families to the performing arts each year. Public support combined with corporate sponsorships and individual donations has been instrumental in creating our arts education successes. Educational initiatives like master classes, workshops, and school programs have demonstrated that the joint investment of public and private dollars can have a positive and long term impact in our community. Miami is realizing the return on it’s investment in the Arsht Center: area property values are increasing, people are migrating into our urban core at a record pace, and our community’s children and families are unlocking the power of the performing arts. Going forward, the Center will leverage public and private resources to maximize its mission of broadening and deepening participation in the arts among the diverse communities of Miami.

– Deanna Maria Costa, Director of Education and Outreach




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