Writing for Life
Young Audiences of WNY is concluding a third year providing Writing for Life to young people, with major support from the John R. Oishei Foundation and in partnership with Renaissance Campus and Compass House Resource Center.
Renaissance Campus and Compass House Resource Center serve young people who are recovering from drug addictions, escaping unsafe home environments or life on the streets. This unusual collaboration is a natural partnership: each organization strives to enhance young people’s development and learning and increase their sense of self-worth in order to provide them with the tools to be successful and productive individuals within their communities.
Writing for Life is a 10 to 12 week residency with writer/ poet, Sherry Robbins and visual artist Kristen Crosson. The students were lead through writing and visual arts workshops; they were inspired through found imagery and create poetry and related visual art. Gayle Danley, an award winning slam poet who deals with grief and healing, loss, urban life, and the importance of friendships, presented workshops and a performance to kick off the residency.
Read Student poetry here. In the poem “Imprisoned,” students wrote:
down, gone and out.
She went berserk for awhile.
Writing for Life concluded at Renaissance Campus with a final reading by participants for family, friends, staff, and appropriate community members, followed by a small reception to celebrate their achievements.
Approximately 250 young people have been served for each of the three years the residency has been offered. The Peter C. Cornell Trust, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, New York State Alliance for Arts Education, the Partners for Arts Education Technical Assistance Program, and the Baird Foundation have provided additional support for this program. Writing for Life originated in 2002 with support from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. We thank the John R. Oishei Foundation for their long term support.
Annette Daniels-Taylor worked with second and seventh graders at Lovejoy Discovery School #43 to bring to life Memoirs: Creative Writing, a YA-WNY residency funded by the Coalition of Arts Providers for Children.
Students interviewed their family, and mined their own memories, to write performance pieces based on personal experience. The following poem was created by seventh graders interviewing their parents.
Back in the Day
By Ms. Holzman’s class
Back in the day
People kicked it old school
Black and White TVs
And Boom Boxes were cool
Break dancing in the streets
Bringing booming beats
Big Cell Phones and pin-ball games
Chilling at the movies bringing the fame
Girls were wearing dresses
Men were being sexist
Bamboo gold hang on her ears
Funny outfits making everything weird
Girls walking around with really big hair
Boys on the street would stop and stare
Tagger on the train
Graffiti on the brain
Gas guzzling cars
Making acid rain
Back in the Day
Back in the day
It was truer
Black and White TVs
Make the people say “Hey!”
They listened to Marvin Gaye
“Let’s Get it On”
On the radio all day
Having house parties
Like Kid and Play
Different kinds of dances
All in your face
Fellas in baggy jeans
Girls with belly rings
Hot summer nights
Tunes on tapes
Boys outside like hairy apes
The only Mohawks that you see
Not on the principal
But on Mr. T!
David Ng — Los Angeles Times — July 15, 2008
All the more reason why we need to continue providing young people with the tools to be consumers, makers, and performers of the arts!
Audiences for the arts in the U.S. continue to decline and age at significant rates, according to a report released Monday by the National Endowment for the Arts. But the Internet holds out hope, as more people are going online to experience culture.
Nearly 35% of U.S. adults – or about 78 million people – attended an art museum or an arts performance in 2008, said the report. That’s down from about 40% in 1982, 1992 and 2002. In particular, audiences for classical and jazz concerts have declined by double digits since 1982, the most of all the art forms.
Surprisingly, the largest drop in arts consumption comes from people ages 45 to 54, which has traditionally been the most dependable group of arts participants.
The NEA report said that college-educated Americans – including those with graduate degrees – are cutting back on their arts consumption across all forms. Ballet attendance by this demographic has dropped by 43% since 1982.
As part of YA-WNY’s Empire State Partnership with the Holley School District, the third grade students at Holley Elementary School worked with teaching artist Kyoko Roszmann to create murals representing four of the earth’s biomes, or ecosystems, using traditional origami techniques. Students made origami animals, plants, and people, which were then arranged on the mural.
As always, Kyoko’s playful teaching methods educate and entertain simultaneously. The monks on the peaks were inspired by Kyoko’s recent trip to Bhutan, in the Himalaya Mountains, while the men in white and the women in saris represent the people of India. The people clad in plaid depict Americans from the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you squint, you may even spot Elvis.
Supporters of YA-WNY met at Shanghai Red’s on Buffalo’s historic waterfront on June 10th for our Annual Benefit Dinner. As attendees enjoyed the silent auction, dinner, and fellowship, Executive Director Helga MacKinnon introduced and recognized honorees Garry Stone, Robert D’Angelo and Cindy Hanna.
Young Audiences of Western New York has Empire State Partnerships (ESPs) with two rural school districts, putting teaching artists into areas we would not otherwise be able to service. Garry Stone from Holland Central School District, and Robert D’Angelo from Holley Central School District, fully support the arts and recognize the added value YA-WNY teaching artists bring to the students and teachers in their districts.
Maria Hager, Susan Mikula, Cecilia Driscoll, and Principal Jeffrey Mochrie at Holland’s HO Brumsted Elementary School, as well as Karen Quaranto, Principal William Ottman and Director of Instruction Brenda Freida at Holley Central School District, were also recognized.
Our third honoree, Cindy Hanna, uses her deep knowledge of, and love for, dance, to spark the enthusiasm of even the most hesitant young dancer. YA-WNY has been delighted to partner with Cindy for many years.
Collaborating with the Art Partners Program at Buffalo State College as well as Starlight Studio, this year’s conference included pre-service college students, educators, human service providers and teaching artists. More than one hundred attendees participated in visual, verbal and musical activities they could then use in their own work to engage diverse learners.
As our attendees told us:
- I was so impressed by the dedication and commitment of all presenters
- Very inspired to continue developing my own programs as well as moving on with more exploration into the field
- This conference is so affirming, informative, and very inspiring
- Great price, amazing presenters. I feel refreshed and connected!
- This was an excellent tool for professional development
The conference focused on the theory and practice of differentiating instruction to meet the range of learning differences found in today’s classrooms, community centers, clinics, after school programs and other settings where the arts are taught.
With support from the Buffalo Teachers Center, YA-WNY has provided Journeys and Journals: Traveling on the Erie Canal and the Phonics Program: Alphabet Awareness in Buffalo Schools for many years. These long-term residencies were offered in 98 Buffalo Public School classrooms during the 2008-2009 school year.
This residency invites students to take a personal journey down the Erie Canal by speaking through the voices of the era. A YA-WNY poet/writer encourages students to express themselves through different literary exercises using vintage maps, photographs, drawings, and imaginative prompts. The poet/writer can incorporate concepts that the classroom teacher would like to focus on. Students learn to write in character, helping them develop a sense of narrative and delve more deeply into the details of daily life in a small town from the past. Over several workshops, the students create interrelated narratives involving multiple culturally and ethnically diverse characters.
This innovative program, created by Jerry Raven, Cindy Hanna and Marna Burstein, uses multiple stimuli to teach phonics to pre-Kindergarten through first grade students. Using songs, dances, signing and visual arts, each consonant or vowel is attached to a variety of activities which establish and reinforce the connection of the letter to its corresponding sounds. The Phonics Program addresses the needs of students who struggle with the traditional approach to reading, by acknowledging that not all students learn in the same way, or at the same rate. The Residency culminates in a celebratory performance by all participating students.