In a classroom at Lincoln-Drew Elementary School in Compton Unified School District, a variety of colorful beads, traditional African fabric wraps and head pieces were being unveiled to a group of first grade students. As each costume piece was revealed, the students “oohed” and “aahed,” anticipating what their character would be wearing.
The class was working with a teaching artist from Theatre of Hearts/Youth First to bring the West African folktale Anansi the Spider to life. As the teachers helped them dress, they happily chatted to visitors about their roles, “I’m Anansi!” said one child. “I’m water!” exclaimed another.
Theatre of Hearts/Youth First partnered with Lincoln-Drew Elementary School to provide all students with 10-weeks of arts instruction. Kindergarteners and second and fifth graders had lessons in music, third graders worked in visual arts and fourth graders studied dance.
The residency was part of Arts for All’s Student Access Fund. Through this program, more than $100,000 is providing students in five school districts with access to arts instruction through partnerships with community arts education providers. Funding is directed toward districts where over 65% of students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals, and less than 40% of their schools receive services from community arts education providers. The program is supported by The Eisner Foundation, California Community Foundation and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
“We know there are areas of the County where students have limited access to our region’s cultural resources,” says Arts for All Director Denise Grande. “Our objective is to support school districts in building relationships that will address these inequities.”
In addition to Compton Unified, other participants include Little Lake City, Lancaster, Mountain View and South Whittier School Districts. The arts organizations providing instruction are Theatre of Hearts/Youth First, Flights of Fancy Story Theatre, Royer Studios and The Music Center.
Photo: First grade students at Lincoln Drew Elementary School in Compton Unified School District in storytelling residency with Theatre of Hearts/Youth First by Gennia Cui.