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Testimonial #10: Holly Stanford, Theater Education Practitioner

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

I was greatly influenced by an English teacher in my high school. She took on the school drama club andinvested 100% of herself into the process, allowing herself to make discoveries along with us, and treating theatre as a mechanism for not only learning, but for us to discover confidence and self-worth.

Before I became involved in the arts, I was a shell of myself- introverted andlacking confidence emotionally and socially. This teacher witnessed my demeanorchange as I threw myself into the roles I played and encouraged me to stay withthe arts- that I “could be a pro”. Now, although I have not become afully-fledged professional in theatre, her vote of confidence in my abilitiesdrove me to study the art intensively in college and then in graduate schoolwhere I trained to teach students, and to encourage them the same way I had.

It only took one teacher’s use of the arts to change the entire trajectory ofmy life, and I am so glad she did. I have met so many more amazing teachers andprofessors of theatre since then, and have learned more from my involvement inthe arts than in any other school of thought.

How are the artsre-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your localschools?

When I came home on a summerbreak from graduate school in New York City I worked tirelessly to give high school studentsacross the region the same option that younger students had. It was unfortunatethat at 14 or 15, you aged out of the arts- I remember feeling so sad after myfinal year of the children’s theatre group. After developing a pilot programover a few months prior to summer 2011, and working alongside a localprevention agency known as Mountain View Prevention Service, Inc., we had aplan, the funding and a cast of students from seven area high schools.

Every part of this summer production was like magic- the students were excited,hard working and wonderful, and the great network of local organizations thatprovided both financial and moral support was heart-warming. I am so glad thatthere has been a growing appreciation for the arts in our community since thissummer. Students who lacked confidence in their own school productions wereable to shine for the first time. I recently revisited one of the participatingschools and many of the students who had participated in the summer programwere up on stage again! It’s amazing to witness their growing confidence andthe willingness of educators in the school to support the arts, and the desiresof students to be involved in theatre.

I do hope that the high school program pilot I worked to create will be offeredagain for future seasons. The program is wonderful for students, especiallyteenagers to have a positive and constructive activity to commit to whileschool is out of session. It is also my desire for area schools to consider thevalue of theatre alongside other art forms in their school budget- if moreschools could offer not only plays, but holistic theatre education for students;I feel that it could only further enhance the student experience both sociallyand academically. Theatre teaches valuable and realistic lessons incommunication, dealing with various types of personalities, working on abudget, how to lead and follow in group situations, learning how to deal withthe hand you were dealt, and good old fashioned hard work and how it willeventually lead to something great.

With an ever changing society, isn’t it important for us to instill these veryimportant lessons into our youth? Theatre is so much more than anextra-curricular activity. I would not be the same without it, and the teens inour community are begging for the chance to be a part of something so muchgreater than test scores and the occasional school play.

Arts education program boosts reading scores

SAN MARCOS: Arts education program boosts reading scores
.ByDEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN dbrennan@nctimes.com | Posted: Thursday, February 9,2012 7:00 pm.

Thousands of North Countyschoolchildren showed an “astonishing” jump in test scores after their teachers used the arts in reading lessons, officials announced Thursday. In a pilot programinvolving 3,000 third- and fourth-graders, test scores improved at triple therate of similar students using the standard curricula. Those in the”DREAM” program learned reading through lessons involving theater,puppetry and painting —- and improved their reading scores by 87 points,education officials announced at a news conference.  “Art has thepower to inspire, inform, and obviously the results of DREAM show that art hasthe power to educate,” Cal State San Marcos President Karen Haynes said.
DREAM —- DevelopingReading Education through Arts Methods —- is a four-year program of the SanDiego County Office of Education, the North County Professional DevelopmentFederation and the Center ARTES of Cal State San Marcos.  Through the program,teachers participated in a weeklong arts integration training sessions and wereassigned to one of three groups. A control group did not employ arts in readinglessons. A second group added the arts lessons, while a third group did so within-class coaching by arts educators.
Kids in the controlgroup raised reading scores by 25 points, officials said. Those whose teacherstaught arts integration on their own brought up test scores by 42 points. Andthe group in which teachers received coaching increased reading scores by 87points.
Merryl Goldberg,chairwoman of the visual and performing arts department at the university, saidthe results show that arts education contributes to attainment of academicstandards, rather than distracting from them.
“We use arts insuch a way that it’s a tool,” she said. “It doesn’t take away fromthe curriculum at all. The arts teach creative thinking, innovative thinking,critical thinking. These are skills that are fundamental to what we need forthe 21 st century.”
Integrating movement,music and visual arts into reading lessons allows kids to employ more sensesand improve their comprehension of literature, said Laurie Stowell, a professorof literacy education at the university.  “Arts are simplyanother way we make sense of the world, and how we make meaning,” shesaid. “That’s what reading and writing is.” At the newsconference, fourth-graders from the Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Artsswayed to jazz music while displaying hand-lettered poster boards emblazonedwith single words.  Smooth,beautiful, peaceful, love,” proclaimed the signs for a smooth jazzselection.
“Explosive,blast, dynamite, grenade,” announced signs for a rhythm and blues piece.
Their teacher, HectorDeleon, said the multimedia lesson reinforced the meaning of vocabulary words,and improved reading comprehension.  “Instead ofhaving kids memorize stuff and spit it out, we’re having them take ownership ofthe word, and experiencing the words with music and movement,” he said.  His student, ArianaCastillo, 9, said the lessons erase her self-doubts about learning.  “It just makesme forget about all the voices in my head that say ‘You’re not good foranything,'” she said. “I just believe in myself.”
How have arts inclusion programs been utilized in your school district  to improve students’ in reading? other subject areas?

You Gotta Have HeART!


Photo credit Sherrie Nickol Citizen People
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Thank you to all those whose hearts are for The Arts!
Send Fran a Valentine. We know there’s a drama, art, music, dance, classroom teacher who changed your life. Within EACH and EVERY human being lies an artistic soul waiting to be sparked: it makes no difference where you’re from or what your economic status.
The Arts Rejuvenate, The Arts Restore. The Arts are our supernatural gift.
It is the force that unites us as a single, breathing, living entity that connects every human being to be all that is good and pure.
Send me your valentine testimonial.  How your third grade teacher taught you to write your first play, finger paint your fears away on an oily white sheet of paper, dance to the beat of your own drum, strum, blow, sing the lyrics that express your point of view.  Move an audience so deeply that they all get goose bumps!(Search for Signs of Intelligent Life)
    

Frances McGarry: Featured Guest on Artistic Resilience

Be realistic. Be transparent. Be authentic.

I was featured as a guest on Artistic Resilience, a new online community that is designed specifically tounite different types of creative people. In this community artists,scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and more can share ideas and collaborateon new projects to improve the world as we know it. Artistic Resilience provides a platform that incorporates ideas, dialogue, connectivity and hard work.  The interview with Claudia Walters, the founder of Artistic Resilience follows:

Name: Frances McGarry.
Stage: East Coast.
Creative drug of choice:Theater, Theater Education, Acting, Singing.
Random fact:I have struggled my entire life with the correct spelling of myname:There is the masculine spellingFrancIs and the feminine spelling FrancEs.As a way to thwart the shame and embarrassment I felt tovalidate my identitywhen the incorrect usage wasmade I decided to address this and other issues that come with growing up in anItalianfamily of 10 (6 girls and 3boys) by creating a cabaret act Frances With An E.Now, what do you think about THAT?!!
Tell me something good:As of March 2011 my position as Education Director waseliminated from a not-for-profit arts organization due to budgetaryconstraints.My entire professional lifehas been devoted to promoting the arts on many different levels.For over 30 years I’ve worked as an education practitioner:first, as a classroom k-12 English and theater teacher, then asan adjunct professor, and finally as an education director for not-for-profitarts-in-education organizations.I’ve conducted a variety ofdrama workshops across the nation, and now unemployed for thefirst time in my life, I have found my new niche as arts activist:raising awareness of the vital inclusion of the arts in ourevery day lives through the launching of my new website.
Where can we witness your creativegenius:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frances-McGarry-First-Online-with-Fran/297833316931497

aR: Define artistic resilience inyour own words.

FM: Artistic resilience means topersevere at creating a deeper, richer, compassionate world through the artsdespite the obstacles; artistic resilience requires re-inventing, re-imaginingour world through the gift of our innate ability to make art and seek solutionsto the ills of our society.
aR:When you’re feeling a little discouraged in your creative work, whattools do you employ to get yourself back on track?
FM:I make lists:Monthly goals; a one-year plan; 3-year; 5-year plan. This servestwo purposes:first, it forces me to focuson realistic goals and objectives and second, it offers opportunities for me toreflect on how far I’ve come since that last month. It’s also a great tool to“punt” during the course of the month and shift paths without feeling like I’mgoing in too many directions.
I have also learned a valuable lessonsince losing my job:surround myself with aninner circle of friends who are 100% FOR me.Not necessarily in an ingratiating way, but to selectively havethose persons who truly value my talent and believe in my potential andcanprovide insight and balancewhen I feel like a failure.
aR: Yes a support base is essential.You also perform right…? Do you wish to continue that as well as yourbusiness? Are one of these professions a bigger passion for you or moreimportant to you?
FM:I am an actor.I would always apologize and refute that declaration of truth,but after performing in an Off-Broadway production of The Vagina Monologueswith an amazing cast of talented women, I have accepted that this is somethingI’m good at and one that I will continue to pursue.It’s not necessarily a matter of importance; nevertheless, it’sa part of my genetic design and well, why not use it?
aR:You seem to be in love with storytelling. Can you name 2 of yourfavorite storytellers and tell me why you think their way of bringing a storyto the surface is so awesome? (Can be anyone. Singers, song-writers,playwrights, directors…)
FM: Mr. Fred Rogers. The best of allstorytellers for every age. E.B. White.I still weep at the end of Charlotte’sWeb. Any Irish playwright/citizen/actor. The ultimate spinner of tales,Shakespeare.
aR: A few of my favorites as well.So what do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your newwebsite?
FM: To raise national awareness ofThe Arts so that funding remains intact. To keep The Arts as a staple of achild’s education. To keep The Arts as a core mission of government as comparedto road repair. And to keep The Arts as a cultural investment because theNational Endowment of the arts conducted a federally funded research thatshowed $278 billion in economic activity was spun off by the arts in 2009.
aR: Wow!How do you plan to accomplish all of that?
FM: Phase One:Let’s Get Loud:Raise AWARENESS
The purpose of the first phase willbe to establish an audience by focusing first on The Arts and its critical rolein defining our humanity. First Online With Fran will serve to be the soundingboard to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna takeit any more!”
Phase Two:Spread the Word:NETWORK
To prepare a list of guests, I amsetting up appointments with people who I feel are getting the job done. I aminterested in the work you are doing and would like to feature you and/or yourorganization on First Online With Fran. We can talk about goals and objectivesand the obstacles you confront either as an individual and/orby the organization. I am particularly interested in yourpersonal commentary and why you have chosen to pursue this cause.
Phase Three:Go Global:GO OPRAH!
Who better to get the job done, thanOprah?We need to convince her thatthe Arts need her support and know-how to thwart the decline of arts inclusion.Her new programming network:The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will be the means to the end.Here’s how:
To redefine the shape of television,CEO Christine Norman summed up the programmingmix in simple words and phrases:“Aspiration. Nurturing. Newness.In short, Winfrey’s fans want to see their hero helping makepeople’s dreams come true in a new, always-on TV environment.” (The PostStandard January 1, 2011 page C3).
First Online With Franwill be the FIRST TV Talk Show that will bring sustainableNational attention to the vital inclusion of The Arts in people’s lives byinviting guests from all walks of life – the school custodian, Lincoln Center,struggling/successful actors, lemonade stands:ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make thearts the fabric of our existence. Let’s make The Arts FIRST ONLINE WITH FRAN.
Phase Four:Change:Alternative Solutions
By raising awareness of how the artsare important to our existence through First Online With Fran we can change theperception that The Arts are viewed as optional, an extra – fluff.No Arts? That’s like saying let’s cut the air for which webreathe.Through the program, FirstOnline With Francreative alternativesolutions that are being implemented can be offered to show how The Arts are avital component for educating the whole child.
aR: Well you definitely have it mappedout! You mentioned before that you thinkthe arts enhances the professional as well as the personal lives of others. Forinstance, having exposure to the arts can make a businessman a bettercommunicator, etc… When did you first come to this revelation?
FM:Personally, it transformed my life from a shy, insecure child toa protector of the ARTS UNIVERSE.Seriously, after writing an integrated arts curriculum for ahigh school program I began to get feedback from students after graduation.How Theater Troupe saved their lives; helped them to acceptidentity issues; helped them to be a better lawyer, architect, manager, etc.I have witnessed over the years how theater can provide lifeskills through hands-on learning.I’ll never forget a student, Lauren, who was the designatedproducer for a our first major drama production on the school auditorium stage.There were a lot of politics and problems she had to face inorder to get approval for the use of the space.I told her, “Welcome to the world of business. Figure out howyou’ll get past the red tape.”She returned a few days later with a dispenser of red tape.“Here it is,” she said.I laughed, not at her, but at my assumption that she understoodthe idiom.Priceless learningexperience both for her and for me. It was these kinds of challenges thatafforded each student to experience and allow each of them to take ownership oftheir learning firsthand.
aR: What’s the most important adviceyou can offer to another creative person trying to seek their own goals?
FM: Be realistic.Be transparent.Be authentic. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and enemies. Besurrounded with an inner circle of friends. Be vigilant.Be diligent. Be willing to turn your will over to your spiritualCreator, whoever and whatever that may be to guide you to your ultimatedestiny.
aR: Thanks for being so realistic,transparent and authentic in this interview.And best of luck to you in your new and exciting venture.I believe your goals for your business are relevant to us all.
FM: Thanks so much for this. Takecare.
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