Revolution Dance Theatre recently shared a story with ArtsWave from a parent. Her 14-year-old daughter had recently quit ballet after six years of training. The lack of diversity in the craft made her feel like she didn't fit in. This mother knew that the arts are critical for a well-rounded education. You can imagine how happy she was to learn that her daughter had reunited with her passion for dance. She had Revolution Dance Theatre's "Black Brown and Ballet Summer of Dance" program to thank for it.
The program is one of many ArtsWave supports in pursuit of our goal to fuel creativity and learning through the arts. Over the summer, it united over 200 diverse student dancers with six weeks of ballet training, classes and events. Students had a chance to connect and learn in a welcoming environment. They learned that dance is more accessible than they thought, no matter their background.
The Summer of Dance finished with "Take the Leap," a concert featuring students, amateurs and professionals. A packed house witnessed the event, which explored the place where classical dance and African American history meet. Students were thrilled to share the stage with professional dancers. By any measure, the program was a huge success — and it wasn't alone. It was one of dozens of programs that ArtsWave supported this year through our Catalyzing Impact grants.
Commonwealth Artists Student Theatre (CAST) has offered a musical production each summer since 2012 through Highlands High School. The group is now independent, which gives them the chance to expand the material they cover. In 2018, with ArtsWave funding, CAST produced Teresa Rebeck's "O Beautiful." This biting satire covers politics, the media and "fake news." Despite being a comedy, it addresses hot-button issues like school bullying, abortion, suicide, date rape and gun rights. It challenged students to consider and discuss the issues in a safe, supportive place as part of the creative process.
CAST students reported increased confidence in 21st century skills like critical thinking, teamwork and leadership. They also reported almost doubled levels of self-awareness and empathy toward others. This result is not unusual in arts education. In fact, it seems to be the norm. We saw an almost identical outcome from 4-Way String Quartet's program at Woodford Paideia Academy.
4-Way's mission is to help underserved children grow as citizen-musicians. They work with Woodford Paideia to give free music lessons and classes to students. Kids in the program develop musical skills while building their self-confidence and a strong bond with their teachers. They also practice teamwork, which is essential in both chamber music and professional life.
With guidance from teachers, the students work together in small, unconducted groups. This exercise in independence helps them learn leadership, cooperation and self-discipline. It challenges them to discuss opposing ideas and work out differences. Every single student reported more confidence, both as a musician and in general. More than 80% reported better self-control and communication skills by the end of the program.
ArtsWave is proud to support projects that impact the lives of today's students and tomorrow's leaders. Skills like creativity, confidence and critical thinking are difficult to teach. We believe that the best avenue for learning them goes through the arts. That's why fueling creativity and learning is part of our Blueprint for Collective Action for the Arts Sector. With the help of a generous, arts-focused community, we continue to make that Blueprint a reality.