YA Program Spotlight – The Artists in Education Residency Grant Program
By Samantha Clarke, Artists in Education Administrator
The Artists in Education Residency Grant Program is a co-sponsored project of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Young Audiences Arts for Learning New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania. Since 1971, the AIE Program has been dedicated to bringing teaching artists and New Jersey schools together in powerful, long-term residencies to help students and administration engage in and learn about the creative process. This past year was no exception.
In the 2018 – 2019 school year, AIE successfully completed 11 school residencies throughout the state of New Jersey. From photography to video installations, hip hop to bucket drums, AIE resident artists collaborated with classroom teachers to create unique lesson plans, innovative professional development, and lasting arts experiences for the school community.
Charles Olbon School, a first time recipient of the AIE grant, worked with The Seventh Principle, a contemporary dance company. Resident artists Candace Hundley-Kamate and Yahaya Kamate developed uniquely tailored lessons for four classrooms (kindergarten, first, and second grades). The goal of each class was for the students to develop an understanding of West African culture through the region’s song and dance.
Classroom teachers throughout the school embraced the new art form and influence from The Seventh Principle. At the residency’s culminating event, the music teacher led the school in a West African song and the school gymnasium was decorated with West African masks made by the students in art class.
“The arts teachers on-site were a key component for moving the knowledge forward,” resident artist Candace Hundley-Kamate says. “Their own projects in visual art and music helped to strengthen and advance the quality and learning comprehension of our specialized art.”
Abigail Hope, first grade teacher, agrees. “The culminating performance was the most memorable part of our residency. Seeing the classes perform four different dances for the school was a profound experience for our entire community. It truly showed that the students are capable of great things, like creating and remembering stories through song and dance.”
Since 2016, Morris Union Jointure Commission has applied for and been awarded an AIE grant. This year, they expanded upon the work they had done in a previous residency with visual artist Marilyn Keating. Keating worked with the students to create a mosaic mural, utilizing papier-mâché, tile, and ceramics. MUJC, who provides public school programs for students with autism or autistic-like behavior, displayed their mural on Main Street, the school’s main hallway. The hallway simulates a town’s main street, including a bank, grocery store, functioning greenhouse, and diner.
Smallacomb states that the mural is utilized by the teachers “as a teaching instrument for labeling, identifying colors, shapes, and furthering language acquisition” with the students. In addition, she cites the collaborative environment as one that is particularly beneficial for the students at Morris Union Jointure Commission.
Bradley Beach Elementary School experienced a photography residency with Erik James Montgomery, a professional photographer. “Erik James Montgomery gave us strategies to engage in visual thinking and taught us vocabulary to discuss and write about photography using evidence and analysis,” says Kirsty Sucato, a language arts teacher at BBES.
“He brought engaging, hands-on activities that made every class period fun. His highly evolved worldview, humanity, empathy, and depth of experience inspired the students and staff.”
In collaboration with the school’s PTO, the staff working on the AIE project launched the first annual Porch Fest, a tour of sixteen porches featuring students’ work, professional musicians, and food donated by local businesses. In addition to the PTO members, around twenty staff members volunteered their time, as well as sixteen homeowners. This culminating event for the residency was a way for students to discuss the photographs they had taken of the every day, ordinary heroes in their life in a fun, celebratory way. The work of these students can be viewed at the website they created to support the project, bbesphotography.wordpress.com.
“One student said the residency was the best part of her year,” Sucato says, stating that after being inspired by the residency, the student intends to join yearbook and the school newspaper next year. “She now thinks of herself as a photographer. She earned an A+, the highest average in her class, for the fourth marking period, having begun the year with a C. She said she forged a bond with our teaching artist and other teachers who supported and celebrated her work. She finally learned to look at her own unedited self portraits without cringing. This would be a wonderful outcome for any student, but for this particular seventh grader, a foster child who suffers from a serious chronic medical condition, it was transformative.”
Twenty-four applications were received for the 2019-2020 school year with projects ranging from Indian dance to healing mosaic labyrinths, theatre, and storytelling. Pending approval of funds, the Artists in Education Residency Grant Program hopes to fund twelve AIE residencies.
For more information, follow the Artists in Education Residency Grant Program on Facebook (@AIEConsortium) and Twitter (@NJArtistsinEd) or by visiting www.njaie.org.