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The Studio Arts Center provides a multidisciplinary arts education to the children of Bald Knob and surrounding school districts. It’s a unique after-school program designed to foster personal and artistic growth through visual arts, music, drama, dance, digital arts and creative writing. It is funded in part by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
About 80 third through twelfth-grade students from Bald Knob and several other nearby schools are enrolled in the Studio Arts Center after-school program. They meet in the Community of Christ Church building across from the Bald Knob School campus Monday through Thursday until 6 p.m.
Students participating in the Studio must attend a mandatory homework time each day. They then select from a variety of classes including violin and string instruments, guitar, African drumming, vocal coaching, drama, dance, creative writing and art. Tutoring and physical activity are also an integral part of the program.
The Studio has been a dream of LaDonna Gibson, director of the Studio and the artistic director of the Bald Knob Fine Arts Council, which sponsors the Studio, for over 10 years.
Her dream began when the Bald Knob Fine Arts Council formed and began to host a summer music camp at the Bald Knob School District, which she directed with the help of other council members. The students who attended immersed themselves in art, music and drama for a full week and the camp was capped off by a group performance at the end of the week.
Gibson saw how much the students benefited from and enjoyed the camp and began to envision a long-term program that would immerse students in the arts and academics. The dream finally became a reality three years ago when a series of seemingly unrelated events allowed all of the pieces to fall into place. A grant Gibson had been pursuing fell through and at about the same time the “Russell Elites” after-school program at the Bald Knob School District approached Gibson about incorporating art, music and drama into the existing program.
Gibson jumped in to help and with assistance from Renee Garr, who wrote the grant for the Russell Elites, spent the next few months writing a grant to fund the Studio as a yearlong separate after school program. 21st CCLC awarded a five-year grant to the Studio, which would make it possible to have approximately 80 students, seven full-time adult staff members, and 13 student staff members.
In the midst of their second year, Gibson feels that the Studio has become even more that she hoped, saying, “Students are being exposed to things they are not getting in school and other after-school programs. Above all, they are developing a sense of community, of family, with each other. They realize that there are not limits because of where they live. They learn to think outside the box and find a way to do something about it.”
The Studio relies heavily on a group of 13 student staff members who teach classes, keep kids on task, assist with homework and tutoring and mentor younger students. Gibson wants mentoring to be an integral part of the Studio and students are encouraged to meet in small groups and work together in a variety of areas. Some student staff members have begun the task of teaching some of the daily classes. The student staff members plan and execute their instruction.
Nick Yates, a high school junior and student staff member, often works with students on art projects and drawing lessons, “This has allowed me to understand how teachers deal with students. I can now view my education experience through the eyes of a teacher. Teaching has also helped me be more confident in front of larger groups.”
Brooke Manley, a sophomore, also works with students, “I feel like I have learned to open up more. My experiences have helped me to get closer to my friends. Some of the kids here will come to me, and I feel confident to help them work through their problems.”
The students and staff of the Studio just closed the curtain on a stellar performance of The Lion King Jr. Students started memorizing lines and doing research to prepare for their parts back in November. The bulk of the choreography and scene work began in January. The group only had two weeks in the auditorium before opening night and were pretty much consumed with The Lion King for about two weeks.
In addition to starring in the play, students planned the lighting and ran the light board and sound systems during the production. Students also played a significant role in set design, choreography and the overall flow of the program. The public was very receptive to the program and was thrilled with the quality of a largely student-run performance.
The students of the Studio still have several performances and even an art show coming up in the next few weeks. Once the program ends for the school year much of the staff will be preparing for Music Camp. The Studio will open for a new season in August 2016.
Registration is required to join the program and is open to students in grades 3-12. Visit the Studio’s Facebook page or the website of the Bald Knob Fine Arts Council for more information on registration and upcoming events.
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