Earlier this year, I sat in the back of a Performing Arts Workshop poetry class. One student rose to share her poem, but lost her nerve. She turned her back to the class, and, without a word, walked into the hallway. She tried again later, stopping several times, choking back tears and strangling her words.
I chalked it up to performance jitters. But I was wrong. “People will think I’m stupid, call me names,” she said. “I can feel their eyes on me, watching me, judging me.” The realization was like a sandbag in the gut: WE were her fear. She was terrified of public speaking. She could have chosen any poem to read. She clutched a notebook full of poetry, yet she chose that one.
In 2011, we launched a three-year strategic plan. Looking back, we were terrified because nothing about it was easy and the fiscal climate was unpredictable. We were terrified, but the risk was worth the reward. We initiated a new program model; we hosted our first student showcase; we hired five teaching artists on salary for the first time in our history.
Next year, we turn 50. What better way to celebrate Founder Gloria Unti, unapologetic risk taker and artist, than betting it all on the Workshop? In 2015, we’re doubling down: We’ll launch a campaign to send the Workshop into its next 50 years. It’ll take money, creativity, and blood, sweat and tears. And we’re up to the challenge.
Whether you’ve supported us for a year, a decade, or if you worked alongside Gloria in our early days, thank you.
2013 marked our 48th year of programming.
Across the nation, there was the usual round of funding cuts, policy debates, and pressure on schools to raise test scores.
Nevertheless, and as you’ve come to expect of us, we at the Workshop kept doing what we do best. We even took big steps to systematically improve our services to youth.
Here are some highlights and moments from 2013 of which we are particularly proud.
Our supporters continue to outdo themselves. On January 1st at 12 A.M., the Workshop stood atop a new milestone: the largest and most successful year-end fundraising drive in our history. The outpouring of support was a clear vote of confidence in our work. Performing Arts Workshop wouldn’t exist without our amazing supporters.
We were honored to co-present with our Global Writes partners the A Tale of Two Cities Project at the Arts Education Partnership National Forum in Washington, D.C. This distinctive project allows students (from six schools in San Francisco and the Bronx) to share poems and compete in cross-country slams via video conference and social networking.
But the students don’t have all the fun. Teaching artists and classroom teachers (from both coasts) get together by videoconference for professional development. This level of collaboration has had a tremendous impact on our educators: they’re more open to taking creative risks and are eager to share their classroom challenges and successes with each other.
The Arts and Emergent Bilingual Youth features an essay about our work at Mission Education Center, a K-5 elementary school for recent immigrants to the United States. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
“‘San Francisco is sad,’ a third grade student at Mission Education Center wrote in response to a creative writing prompt, ‘because I miss my abuela and the salsa verde she made.’
Students at Mission Education Center have stories to tell…They are learning how to negotiate a new home and a new life in a new language, English. Arts-based inquiry and arts-integrated curricula can offer a deeper, more meaningful way for students to develop language skills, because it begins with their own self-identity.”
Executive Director Jessica Mele flew to D.C. to lobby for the preservation of the Art in Education Program at the US Department of Education. To cap off two days of grueling advocacy, Jessica met fellow arts advocate and former Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum!
The San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families awarded us our third consecutive multi-year grant to support afterschool programming.
Additionally, we were honored to be awarded a new, separate grant to expand our partnership at Hamilton Family Center serving homeless youth in their Hayes Valley transitional housing facility. The mom of one our students at Hamilton Family Center said:
“Ever since we moved here [my son] has been quiet but he loves…being around the other kids; he really enjoys the activities and the dance and movement is good for him.”
Students from Visitacion Valley Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr Academic Middle School, and San Francisco Community School went head-to-head in our annual spoken word poetry slam.
The winners, a trio of seventh grade boys, swept the audience’s hearts away with a deeply personal piece: Exhibiting masterful use of juxtaposition, imagery, and rhyme, they shared stories of tragic loss to violence and their hopes for a bright future.
Over 50 students and 200+ family members, teachers, and supporters took over the theater at the Children’s Creativity Museum for our annual Spring Student Showcase.
Peter Rothblatt, advisory council member and former teaching artist and board member, emceed the event. Belva Davis gave the keynote address and dared us all to dream like an artist. But the real stars of the night were the young performers. Watch the short highlights video (filmed and produced by BAYCAT students) to relive the evening.
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Thanks to major support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we commenced a feasibility study on a “change” capital campaign. This type of capital campaign, unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar drive, would support a profound programmatic shift to “Immersive Partnerships” at the Workshop.
Immersive Partnerships are in-depth collaborations with schools to meet long-term educational goals. They rely on a mutual commitment to rigorous, academically aligned arts programming. At Immersive Partnership sites, our artists teach classes during the school day and after school, for the entire academic year.
This level of educational partnership is all too rare in the field—and we aim to change that.
Where I’m From is our fourth annual poetry anthology authored by students at Loma Alta High School, a school for incarcerated youth at Marin County Juvenile Hall. In the foreword, Teaching Artist Dana Teen Lomax reflects on the class:
“We have talked about everything from gender (this discussion was particularly rowdy…) politics to race issues and from censorship to addiction…They have challenged me and themselves in the best ways, taking on the deeper questions about art and life.”
Learn more about this program and read an excerpt from the anthology on our blog.
In recognition of their long tenure and immense talent in the classroom, we promoted a group of teaching artists to the new core artist position. They’ll focus their work at Immersive Partnerships sites.
Our core artists include Lindsey Boldt (creative writing), Sonia Reiter (creative movement), Amani Manning (world dance), and Sale Alves (Capoeira). Tina Banchero (creative movement) will serve as a core artist mentor.
“It’s really difficult to find high quality
instructors, and Performing Arts Workshop
always provides them. Sale is like part of our
-Gabby Guinea, Site Coordinator, ER Taylor Elementary
We kicked off another school year with freshly sharpened pencils and our new Immersive Partnership model.
September 8 - 14
As a member of Creative Impact Bay Area, we helped lead a weeklong celebration and advocacy effort, coinciding with National Arts in Education Week. The week culminated in a celebration and resource fair at the Oakland Museum of California.
A generous grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission enhances our partnership at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School. The grant supports afterschool Afro-Peruvian dance classes and a culminating showcase, Beats of the Bayview!
Hosted at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the historic Jazz Preservation District, over 50 guests were treated to an amazing party: a trio of students performed their award-winning spoken word piece, supporters read selections from our Loma Alta High School anthology, and Core Artist Amani Manning led an Afro-Peruvian dance workshop.
Measuring our results in the classroom has always played a pivotal role in our work. One of our federally-funded research projects (PACT21) is studying the role our programs play in the development of 21st century skills. Research from year three (of four) found that students last year made improvements in their:
The full report from the 2012-13 school year can be found on our website.
With an accompanying hip hop beat, students performed poems that offered a peek into their personal lives. The topics ranged from fear of performance, love of dance, losing a grandparent, and living alone as a child in South America.
The Dahlia Kollective organized SF Connects to celebrate the best of San Francisco’s art and music scene. Proceeds from the event were donated to the Workshop!
Last year, over 6,000 kids learned dance, creative writing, creative movement, spoken word, music, and theatre arts. Committed and caring people like you power this work. Thank you!
In memory of Wendy Menefee
Visit our website to learn more about the Gloria Unti Legacy Society.
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