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The organization behind the “Best Live Children’s Theater”* in Colorado also offers arts programs that stimulate student learning for thousands of school-children throughout the Denver region.
The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada, Colorado, is one of the top-10 cultural destinations in the Denver metropolitan area. Christie Schenkel, the development director for the Center, described it as a multidisciplinary art center that features performing arts, visual arts, hands-on education programs, and historical museum exhibits. “We’re usually identified with two main things,” said Schenkel. “The first is our professional-level theater, which produces in-house and presents both adult and children live theater. We’re also known for our hands-on partnerships with schools to address arts education for children throughout the region.”
The Center offers Arts Day programs, which usually are integrated with the children’s theater performances at the Center. Outreach programs also are available. The short, half-day workshops can be a mix of performance arts, visual arts, humanities-based programs, or local history-based programs. “We make them speak to the schools’ curriculums,” said Schenkel. “We serve about 12,000 students per year with our outreach programs.
“We also serve about 60,000 students in the Arts Day Children’s Theater programs.” The students attend a workshop based on the themes of the play that they’ll see at the theater. The workshops might include creating puppets or doing some other art-based project. They also might include learning about the subjects of the play, which could be something like dinosaurs or the environment.
Explained Schenkel, “Then they attend the play. Afterwards, cast members take them backstage and give them a hands-on workshop about what goes into putting on a play – how the sets and costumes are made, how the lighting was done, and how the sound works.”
Prior to the Arts Day event, the Center sends out a curriculum-based theater study guide that speaks about the production and weaves it into other studies for the appropriate age groups. The preparatory materials help the teacher to engage the students in the production they’re about to attend.
The Arts Day program is 20 years old, and the Center’s Children’s Theater is more than 27 years old.
Subaru of America Foundation has sponsored the children’s theater Arts Day programs the last two years. According to Schenkel, “Subaru supported three of the children’s theater productions and a year’s worth of the Arts Day programs with its gift. We were able to give free or discounted experiences to low-income schools.”
For more information about the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, go to www.arvadacenter.org.
* Colorado Parent Magazine, 2005 and 2006.
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