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State of the Arts

Educators have long recognized the value of music, art, drama and writing for students' creative development and academic success. Yet the arts remain squeezed by tight budgets and test-driven performance standards. This series highlights efforts to protect and promote school arts programs.

Art teacher Amber Warren shows, from left, Alexiana Ochoa and Alexis Odelin, how to make a name monster

Necessity, Not Luxury

Art teacher Amber Warren sees the difference in students who have had experience in art and those who haven't. The latter have little faith in their artistic abilities, she said. "They are not confident." After offering art at reduced levels...

The Play’s the Thing; So’s the Writing

A lengthy short story from the mind of Eliot King comes to life onstage in a powerful pantomime by Marissa Schutter and Donovan Fletcher. A science-fiction tale written by Hailee Cederquist becomes a humorous domestic skit about channel-surfing by...

Giving Voice to Children

Most elementary students have never attended an opera. Coit Creative Arts Academy fourth- and fifth-grade students have created, produced and performed one. The project, done in partnership with Opera Grand Rapids Children's Opera, was led by the Creative Connections arts...

Art Walk Homage to Award-winning Artists

At Century Park Learning Center, a riot of color swirling like a Chihuly tangle of glass sprouted all over the school. The inspiration for students: picture book illustrations found in Caldecott winners. Rainbow-beaked birds like toucans dangled overhead, like Richard...

Make Art, Then Prosper

When Tricia Erickson was a little girl, her mother found her drawing pictures of Yogi Bear and his cartoon friends Tricia watched on TV. Struck by how accurate the drawings were, her mom asked, “You drew these from figures...

Rocking Out with Strings, Awesomely

Mitchell Evink couldn't seem to help playing air cello as he sat on the floor of the band room and watched a video featuring the high school's rock fusion orchestra. As air cello goes, Mitchell's playing was pretty "lit," as...

An Arts School Takes the Stage

Baton in hand, Jaeda Selden led fellow second-graders Kamellah Kidd and Lizzariah Robertson in practicing a song from “The Wiz.” Taking a break for a reporter, they chatted excitedly about the hit musical they would soon present on the...

History as Song and Story

It was the true story of a horrific murder, but Ben Bedford sang the tale to a gentle melody. “Pulled by four strong arms from sleep/where he prayed to the Lord his soul to keep/to that half-ton Chevy on a...

Art Award Tradition Continues for 35th Year of Excellence

Northview High School sophomore Nick Ensing's drawing depicts a colorful, detailed royal court, staffed by doe-eyed kings, queens and jesters. Junior Ellie Haveman's photo is of a girl's face, simple, shadowy and pure. Both pieces are Representative's Choice winners for ArtFest...

Playing in Tune with Giving Hearts

Elizabeth Catlin tentatively plucked a few notes on a violin after eighth-graders McKenzie Watkoski and Presley Avery showed her how. The she gamely played along with a blues tune played by the student orchestra, which had come to entertain...

Revived Program Attracts Student Artists, Musicians

From imaginative paintings and sculptures to soothing songs and a silky sax solo, Union High and Westwood Middle school students recently shared their artistic talents at the third annual Westside Celebration of the Arts. The evening featured student artwork that...

Students Jam On, with Plenty of Moxie

Forest Hills Eastern High orchestra students joined forces recently with The Moxie Strings for a night of upbeat contemporary music. But before they did, they spent time jamming together at school. Moxies violinist Diana Ladio and Alison Lynn on electric...

Settling Conflict by Settling Minds with Connective Art

With colorful petals radiating from a bright orange center, the mandala Circle of Art rug represents the universe and all its connectivity. For members of the high school's National Art Honor Society, it's also a way of connecting with a...

Students Explore Hip-Hop as ‘Something that You Live’

Matthew Duncan lightly shakes a can of spray paint and, like the serious aerosol artist he is, deftly sprays an immaculate orange “o” on a canvas. And so begins a lesson on graffiti – or more properly called “writing,” he...

Adding Sugar to Education’s Cake

As a young mother new to the district in the early 1970s, Candace Hinshaw remembers hearing about a magazine sale at Pine Ridge Elementary to raise money to bring in outside performers. "They brought in an individual who was doing...

‘They Learn by Music’

A drum beat echoes down the halls of Sparta's Appleview Elementary. The source: a boisterous bunch of musicians keeping a beat and dancing to the rhythm. Students with cognitive impairments from across the district are stepping in line with Artists Creating...
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