The Arts Explorers program completed its third year last week with a public exhibition of work, including dance performance, writing and visual art.
Woodrow Wilson Middle School students, working under the mentorship of artists Kate Rushin (writing), Joel Teixidor (dance) and Renee Soares (visual arts), focused exclusively on visual arts, dance or writing, developing a performance piece, works of art for a gallery exhibit, or a literary project that can be read or published.
The Middletown High School Dragons-in-Action serve as teaching assistants, guiding the younger students and participating in each art form as a peer example.
The Arts Explorers began the year with first-hand exposure to professional arts exhibitions in dance, visual art and writing, visiting the Wesleyan University Center for the Arts, Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery; and the Hartford Public Library Art Work and Archive. Between October and May, they have been exposed to, learned and honed skills and styles in their chosen art forms.
“The Arts Explorers program wouldn’t exist without the help of many other people and organizations and their commitment to keeping it going.The program was originally funded in 2008 by an Underserved Youth Pilot grant from the State of CT’s Commission on Culture and Tourism," said Oddfellows Executive Director Matt Pugliese.
"As the state money went away, organizations like the Middlesex United Way, Middletown Youth Service Bureau, Liberty Bank Foundation, American Savings Foundation, Fund for Greater Hartford, George A and Grace L. Long Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Fund and Elizabeth Carse Foundation stepped in or stepped up their support to keep this successful program alive."
"We have these community organizations and their leadership to thank for this positive program,” Pugliese said.
The final project is an open exhibition of works, showcased in a professional style and given the support and atmosphere of a curated art exhibit. Visual arts include painting in acrylics and oils, multimedia mask-making, drawing, and mixed media constructions; literary pieces ranged from poetry to short stories, dance ranged from Africa Gum Boot to Bollywood.
An important aspect of the program is job training. Students are expected to treat the program with the same responsibility as a job, earning money for attendance and being docked pay for each missed class. Over the course of the program, students can earn up to $200.
“The money is not the primary outcome, but it is a key motivator to develop important life skills around responsibility and work ethic,” said Program Coordinator Joanna Perricone.
"The sales from the final exhibition benefit the individual artists. The students’ book sales, dance box office earnings, and visual art receipts are part of the educational process of working as a professional artist. The final exhibition was well-attended by family, friends, teachers and community leaders," she added.
The program is a collaboration between the Playhouse and the .