Austin Peay State University (APSU)
Clarksville, TN – Anticipation rippled through the Barkers Mill Elementary School third, fourth and fifth graders as they witnessed Fern pondering what to name her piglet.
Some students giggled and leaned toward each other’s ears, whispering. Other students shifted forward in their seats at the Roxy Regional Theatre and whispered – a bit more loudly – at the stage.
And that’s the name Fern – played by Kylan Elizabeth Ritchie – landed on.
The Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University (APSU) recently launched an initiative to provide local schoolchildren better access to the arts, such as a January 29th trip to the Roxy Regional Theatre to watch “Charlotte’s Web.” The CECA Arts Experiences grants pay for student tickets and bus transportation.
Experiences ‘Break Down Barriers’
“By offering these arts experiences, we hope to break down barriers like transportation and ticket cost to give students better access to the arts,” Dr. Janice Crews, CECA director, said.
Barkers Mill music teacher Whitney Swallows agreed. The CECA Arts Experiences Grant she received gave the school’s students access to the Roxy and a professionally performed play.
“They’re seeing only live performances at our school, twice a year, so this was really a treat,” Swallows said. “They were so excited to practice their theater etiquette, to practice their ‘bravo, bravo.’”
The play was a reward for the school’s Kennedy’s Kid winners – two students chosen from each class every nine weeks who exemplify good academics and good citizenry, Swallows added. Eighty-four students attended “Charlotte’s Web.”
“The Roxy Regional Theatre is thrilled to be able to partner with CECA in sponsoring schoolchildren to attend professional productions at the theatre,” Ryan Bowie, Roxie executive director, said. “As they say, teamwork makes the dream work, and for these young children, dreams came true as they sat through our production.”
More CECA Arts Experiences
Also scheduled this semester as a CECA Arts Experience:
- The Roxy will host Moore Magnet Elementary School, Kenwood High School and Northwest High School students.
- The Nashville Opera will visit APSU and perform for Kenwood High School and Northeast High School students.
- The Customs House Museum and Cultural Center will host Woodlawn Elementary School and East Montgomery Elementary School students.
- School visits with professional musicians are planned through the Gateway Chamber Orchestra.
To receive a CECA Arts Experience, teachers complete a simple online form.
“It was a new experience for me, applying,” Swallows said. “I’m a little hesitant applying for grants; oftentimes, I’m not successful. CECA made it so user-friendly; I appreciate it was so black-and-white easy to get in there. Other grants have been a monster to tackle.”
“The Roxy aims to offer multiple options for schoolchildren to attend daytime performances to not only entertain but to be an extension of the classroom and their studies,” Bowie said. “CECA is allowing schools and children who would not necessarily be able to attend to have the opportunity to enjoy professional, live theatre at no cost.”
CECA is using money from a generous 10-year gift from the Heydel Family Foundation, in honor of June Heydel, to provide the arts experience grants. The gift also supported an arts integration workshop for more than 20 Clarksville-Montgomery County School System teachers last October.
“It’s a small investment to make a big difference in the lives of 350-plus students and counting,” Crews said.
- For more about CECA, visit www.apsu.edu/ceca.
- For more about Barkers Mill Elementary, visit https://barkersmillelem.cmcss.net.
- For more about the Roxy Regional Theatre, visit http://roxyregionaltheatre.org/