Last week, I travelled southeast, in the direction of the South Carolina coast (but not quite that far), to a small, rural town to offer arts outreach to a group of rising sixth- to eighth-graders. Along with artists in each of the arts disciplines, a couple of interns and the outreach coordinator for the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, my task was to Ignite! the arts for the young people who attended the week’s sessions.
I’ve worked with this program since it began five years ago, here in my small southern city. Students who attend have arts in their schools. They’ve been to one (or more) of our museums. They have a good idea of what to expect.
This is the first time we’ve taken it on the road.
We found students who have no access to the arts in their schools (some schools offer related arts programming only up to fourth grade). We found students who never been to a museum of any kind. We found students willing to create art of all kinds, with whatever materials were present.
During the course of the week, we explored creative writing, dance, music (many drum circles), visual art and theatre. We created works of art from found objects — one, pictured above, is a group project (everyone who attended contributed) created on a discarded sign we found on the way to the school after our trip to the art museum. We read, drummed, danced and performed for each other. Students opened themselves to a group of complete strangers. I felt that we did, indeed, Ignite! the arts. I found myself inspired and grateful.
By Friday, I was exhausted, missing my regular writing schedule, my children, my dogs, my trail run, my sleep.
It’s Monday now. I’ve slept, written, run, kissed the teens and walked the dogs. I’ve had time to reflect. One thing is certain: the week re-Ignited a long-time desire to share my love of the arts in general and writing (and reading) in particular with young people who have limited access.