The U.S. Department of Education was proud to host the Flint Institute of Arts, Flint School of Performing Arts, Flint Youth Theatre, and Tapology for the Flint Arts on the Road student art exhibit, which opened on April 22. Flint Arts on the Road is the first initiative of Flint Cultural Center institutions to produce cross-disciplinary collaborative programming showcasing the special talents of exceptional students in the visual and performing arts. The visit to D.C. for the opening also provided them a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience as they met and performed with their peers at several D.C.-area arts education institutions.
The importance of community and collaboration was undeniably evident both on the stage and behind the scenes for this event. The Flint arts community made this event possible by working together and obtaining support from philanthropic partnerships with the James A. Welch Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Dort Family Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, and the Whiting Foundation. Additional support came from the Metro Community Development Administration. Covering even the expenses of transporting their own miked tap dance floor, these contributions allowed 25 young students to come to Washington D.C. for the first time and share their artistic talents.
The program began with welcoming remarks by Brenda Girton-Mitchell, director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education. Telling the story of each of their Flint cultural institutions were Jeff Garrett, assistant director of the Flint Institute of Arts Art School; Davin Pierson Torre, director of the Flint School of Performing Arts; Jeremy Winchester, executive artistic director of the Flint Youth Theatre; and Bruce Bradley, artistic director of Tapology —Science of Dance, Art of Rhythm. Flint Congressman Dan Kildee (5th District, Mich.) was there to support the accomplishments of the students and institutions, saying, "You made me very proud today." The Dort Honors String Quartet performed the 1st movement of Beethoven’s "Opus 18 no. 1." Students of the Flint Youth Theatre performed "The Memorable Adventure of Ricky," a play they also created and directed. The Tapology dancers performed two pieces choreographed by Frances Bradley and Maurice Chesnutt.
In addition to Department of Education staff and leaders from many arts and arts education organizations, the audience included Anne Arundel County, Md.’s Annapolis High School dance students and Bates Middle School vocal and visual arts students. When asked about the performances, Bates Middle School student Laura stated, "I loved the tap dance. It was very original. They picked out memorable music." Department of Education staff member Lisa Vazquez, also impressed by the performances, stated, "As a former theatre teacher, I loved having students come in and perform for us. Student artists bring such genuine enthusiasm, curiosity, and energy to their work; they bring new perspective to the world and to the issues at hand." Terry Peterson, director of the Afterschool and Community Learning Network and senior advisor to former Education Secretary Richard Riley, remarked on the importance of "keeping the torch on for quality arts learning as it is increasingly becoming an essential." After being inspired by the performance of their peers, the students from Anne Arundel County and Flint had the opportunity to dialogue together, resulting in new Facebook friendships and Instagram photos so they could keep in touch and save the memories created during the event. Perhaps these connections will spur future artistic collaborations.
Before the show the student artists shared their thoughts on the impact of the arts in their lives.
"The arts are fun. You have to be willing to fail in order to improve. I started dancing at age four. Tap dancing is a language spoken by people all over the world." — Alexis Edmonds, Tapology
“The tap group has become a family. Through our connection in dance we have grown closer as a community. Performing here is an opportunity to share what we love to do.” — Joseè Muldrew, Tapology
"Playing an instrument helps you to observe and learn from your mistakes." — Mitchell Anderson, Dort Honors String Quartet
"Playing the cello takes extreme math and communications skills. You have to play the right notes for the right length of time and communicate well with other instrumentalists in the group." — Timothy Brewer, Dort Honors String Quartet
"I love music because it gives me goals to work towards and something to focus on." — Elizabeth Bundy, Dort Honors String Quartet
"I picked a lot of electronics and decided to draw my dog named Chewy since I know what he looks like." — Brendan Mitchell, Flint Institute of Arts Art School Pre-College Portfolio Development Program
"Art helps me to relax and focus; it inspires me to view life from other perspectives." — Lauren Holloway, Flint Institute of Arts Art School Pre-College Portfolio Development Program
“It is awesome to be able to perform in D.C. Acting has given me confidence. I used to be shy but now I am not afraid to be myself.” — Jennifer Bearup, Flint Youth Theatre
"Theatre has helped me to be patient, communicate, and observe my surroundings. I am excited to go to DePaul University this fall for a BFA in directing." — Danielle Szabo, Flint Youth Theatre
When communities come together to support arts education not only do the students benefit but so do the community members and those individuals who are able to see the art produced. The exhibit will be on display from April 22 through May 31.
Click here to view additional photos from the event.
Chareese Ross is an information resource specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.
Official Department of Education photos are by Joshua Hoover.