I’ve been a member of Allegro for its first three years, and the trip to New York City was a great addition my experience in the group. The activities planned for us were the perfect combination of traditional New York attractions and things specific to our group. We got to see the fantastic Mary Poppins on Broadway, and the thrill of seeing a Broadway musical was heightened by taking a master class where we learned music from the show and worked with a cast member! Performing at St. John the Divine- a truly spectacular venue- was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no one will soon forget. The trip was orchestrated without a hitch, and I was happy to be able to make the journey with my COCA family.
By Laurel Button, 7th grader and cast member in this weekend’s CTC performance of The Hundred Dresses, adapted from Eleanor Estes’ Newbery Honor and Caldecot Medal book, set in the 1930’s. When Wanda Petronski tells classmates that she has a hundred dresses — even though she wears the same one everyday — she endures relentless teasing. While the heroine, Maddie, doesn’t tease Wanda, she does nothing to stop it for fear of being teased herself.
Look at me; I’m the typical American teenager. I’m in Seventh Grade. I obsess about how I look. I love to hang out with friends. Now, look inside me; you’ll see someone completely different. Someone who’d rather read than watch television. Someone who can’t tell the difference between Jay-Z and Ludacris, or doesn’t know the words to Justin Bieber songs. You’ll see someone whose brain’s been placed in the wrong period of life- an adult’s brain in a child’s body. And I’ve never lived that down.
I have learned that even if you’re different, people don’t have to treat you differently.
My first day at Forsyth School was the first day of my life. It was the day before Halloween in fourth grade, and I walked into my new school for the first time since I had visited two weeks prior. I looked around at the grinning faces as I gazed about the classroom and heard a few girls yell “Hey! Look! It’s Laurel!” They remembered me; they’re excited to see me. I prove my belief through their ability to not care I was different.
Throughout most of my life, I wasn’t accepted. I felt out of place, friendless, weird, stupid. The funny thing was, I was excluded because I was smart. Don’t get me wrong, there’s more than one reason. Not only was I intelligent, I was overweight; on my way to becoming obese. When I moved into Forsyth School in fourth grade, I stayed there until graduation. There, I had friends; People who actually accepted me for me. There, I first heard “I thought you were weird, but now I know you’re just cool.” Hearing that statement, to this day, is the exact reason for my belief.
I was lucky for my new-found friends because if I didn’t have them I’d be a statistic. According to CNBC, Seventy-one percent of suicides occur in girls, ages 10-14. A chief reason for these deaths? Emotional bullying. I could’ve become one of the many victims of the horrible genocide caused by preteen girls’ emotions. I could’ve been one of those girls who were bullied until they couldn’t take it anymore. Girls who didn’t. I think that if someone had shown them compassion or acceptance, like I was, they may still be here today. If they’d known that people had the ability to see past their differences, like I did, they‘d still be here tomorrow.
Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. The blazing bon-fire was flickering between the people crowded around it. I look around at the warm, smiling faces that I’d come to know after camp. Countless times today, I’d heard the same thing, “…You’re just cool.” Like the fire, these people’s opinions of me started out low, cautious, and then grew, to like me, until, like the blue and oranges hues of the fire, we blended into one.
So, my fellow humans, speak equally to, and about, all people, and know with great certainty that they’ll speak the same. This, I believe.
Written by Shanara Gabrielle. Shanara is a professional actor, an aspiring aerialist, and an extraordinary bare-cupboards chef. She teaches, prods, and tries to inspire young’uns in the theatre department at COCA.
Why is our Art important or how do we make it so?
… reflections on COCA Theatre Company’s upcoming production of The Hundred Dresses…
Often times as an artist, I wonder how my artistry really affects the world I live in. I wonder how creating theatre can actually change the world, leave it better than I found it. I wonder how my teaching young actors will create better adults to lead the future generations. I wonder how my telling stories on the stage can further understanding of the universe in which we live.
It is rare when an artistic opportunity such as The Hundred Dresses comes along: an opportunity that brings in to focus the relevance and importance of the art that we create. An opportunity that so clearly provides the answers to the “how” of making Art that matters. The Hundred Dresses comes to us at a time when our country is losing its youth to suicide, losing its young thinkers to peer-squelching, and our government has just declared “bullying” as a national problem.
Set in the 1930’s, The Hundred Dresses addresses bullying head-on in a historical context with contemporary relevance. It gives us a chance to explore all the facets of what it means to bully, to be bullied, and to stand idle when others are victims of bullying.
So, let CTC’s production of The Hundred Dresses stand as COCA’s “Anti-Bullying” campaign. So, let The Hundred Dresses be this artist’s tiny contribution to make this world a kinder, more tolerant, deeper-thinking place for us and our children. So, let this piece of theatre be a catalyst for each of us to explore how to make our daily lives and our daily contributions, truly relevant, truly Important.
The Hundred Dresses, adapted from the 1944 book that has a Newbery Honor and a Caldecott Medal is set in the 1930’s. When Wanda Petronski tells her classmates that she has a hundred dresses even though she wears the same one to school everyday, she endures relentless teasing. While Maddie, our heroine, doesn’t tease Wanda, she does nothing to stop it for fear of being teased herself. Through the play, we discover that there may actually be a hundred dresses and find that it is more important to speak out and stand up for people, even if it is not the popular thing to do.
The Hundred Dresses will be performed in Founders Theatre on January 28 and 29. Auditions for student’s ages 12 – 18 who would like to be part of CTC’s production will be held on December 5th. www.cocastl.org for more information.
All About Exhibit A…
Exhibit A – Art by Architects is an annual charitable event sponsored by Cannon Design for the benefit of one of the many extraordinary non-profit institutions in St. Louis. The event was first conceived to commemorate the grand opening of the revitalized Power House, now home to Cannon Design.
Built in 1927 as part of the Municipal Service Building complex and listed on the National Historic Register, the Power House had been vacant for over 25 years and was in serious decay. For years, it was known as the “tree building” because of a large weed that had thrived on its roof at 11th & Clark Streets downtown. You’ve probably seen it on your way to a baseball game.
Cannon Design breathed new life into this prominent building with its signature arched windows, and through an internal design competition, created LEED-Gold award-winning offices for the leading international architectural, engineering and planning firm.
The first Exhibit A event was a celebration of restoration and renewal. It also signified Cannon’s longtime commitment to the city of St. Louis and urban causes. To advance the beginning of a tradition, De La Salle Middle School in the Ville neighborhood of north St. Louis was selected in 2008 and 2009 as the inaugural beneficiary. Its remarkable educational work with remarkable but exceedingly challenged young people is, indeed, remarkable.
This year, Cannon Design is thrilled and honored to partner with COCA’s Urban Arts Programs, an equally remarkable organization that is changing lives through exposure to and hands-on experiences with the arts.
Art is what Exhibit A is all about. Kent Turner, now president Cannon Design North America, speculated that there might be interest in the St. Louis community in the sale of sketches and drawings by renowned architects. Cannon hoped that such interest would be enhanced knowing that proceeds would yield a meaningful benefit to a worthy organization.
The Exhibit A silent auction features original signed drawings and sketches donated by notable (and generous) architects from around the world. Some of the work is produced specifically for the event. Some is a product of current or recent design work.
The Art by Architects is all very cool, collectable, and for an exceptional cause. It is beautifully framed and ready to grace a space in your home or office.
Also in the mix this year we offer award-winning photographs from the American Institute of Architects National Photography Competition, produced by AIA St. Louis.
The event will be held on Thursday, November 18 from 5:30 until 8:30 pm.
Be there for a uniquely memorable evening! It’s remarkable!
Posted by the Cannon Design Exhibit A 2010 Committee
Just in time for the holidays! We thought you all would enjoy some timely tips on staying in shape throughout all those upcoming turkey and ham dinners. We have a very “proactively festive” staff here at COCA, and have been holding ourselves back from going nuts on the holiday decor, holiday parties, and holiday treats. But, we also have a health- and fitness-conscious culture. Sarah McKenney is the perfect embodiment of both! (Her staff-wide “Turkey Burner Challenge” is back by popular demand this November – a month-long goal of exercising off all those Thanksgiving calories BEFORE the holiday, so we can enjoy a guilt-free feast knowing we have already burnt off the excess.) Without further ado, let’s hear what she’s got to say about holiday fitness!
Kate: I can attest to that fact that you are extremely motivating to everyone in the office! Can you share some of your top tips for staying in shape over the holidays?
Sarah: It’s all about moderation. It’s easy to say you’re not going to have that 2nd piece of pumpkin pie, but in reality you’re going to have that 2nd piece of delicious pumpkin pie! It’s ok to treat yourself, but not every day. Pick a day of the week to make your treat day and every other day, be good. This short term goal will give you something to look forward to. Along with your diet, you have to have exercise as part of your daily routine to maintain a healthy weight and stay in shape. Some days you may have an hour to work out, but others you may only have 25 minutes. It’s ok to vary your times…every little bit helps!
Kate: It seems like we get so much conflicting advice regarding the best ways to stay healthy. What’s really more important – diet or exercise?
Sarah: I don’t think one is more important than the other…they go hand in hand. To lose weight you have burn more calories than you take in. Exercising while dieting will give you a better and faster result.
Kate: Here’s an important one going into the holiday party season. Can you give me some good basic rules for determining portion sizes?
Sarah: Ahh yes, portion control! Something I struggle with myself. When eating out, I always think I have to eat until I’m full or not eat enough and am still hungry. Neither will work well for me in the long run. You have to eat until you’re satisfied. Having a small salad full of veggies and low calorie dressing before a meal will help. All the fiber in the veggies will fill you up faster. It’s ok to ask for a to-go box – even before you start eating. You can put half your meal away before you begin and enjoy it the next day. Portion control relates well to self-control. If you can control your arm from reaching across the table to savor that last turkey leg sitting on the platter then you will reap the benefits later.
Kate: OK, so we need to pace ourselves…but it’s not only the amount of food that matters, it’s the nutritional content of the food itself. For example, every Thanksgiving, my mom makes the most delicious German Chocolate cake you can imagine – do I have to avoid it?
Sarah: No! I would avoid having the scoop of vanilla ice cream along with the cake as well as having seconds, but having one slice is not going to hurt. Make Thanksgiving your treat day, so you will not feel guilty having the piece of cake.
Kate: How do you psyche yourself up for a great workout on days when you’re just not feeling it?
Sarah: I always think about how good I feel after a great workout. I also like to make play lists on my iPod. I either download new music or switch around my existing play lists. I actually get excited to go for a run just so I can listen to my new play list. Another good tactic is working out with a friend. Knowing that you have to meet someone at the gym or at the park for a run helps. It’s easy to let yourself down, but not so easy letting someone else down.
Kate: I don’t have a gym membership – what are some good ways to exercise at home when it’s too cold for outdoor activities?
Sarah: Exercising doesn’t have to cost you a thing! You can use items in your house to get the same results at the gym. Take 2 soup cans out of your cabinet for weights, use a chair for tricep dips, use your stairs for step ups and lunges, push ups on the ground, etc. Think of 3 exercises you can do with household items and make it a circuit workout…do each exercise 3 times. End with push ups, abs, and stretching. You can also go on YouTube and view other exercises you can do in your home. Follow the instructor on your computer!
Awesome tips – thank you so much for stopping by, Sarah! We will definitely be reporting back in the future with more seasonal fitness tips from our resident expert. All of us at COCA hope you just got a little more motivated to enjoy happy, healthy holidays!
By Sarah McKenney and Kate Olympiadis. Sarah is a fitness lover and half marathon runner who works in the Education department at COCA. She also teaches many early childhood dance classes as well as fitness classes. Sarah enjoys motivating friends, family and co-workers to get and stay in shape!
According to www.dictionary.com:
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
Hmm. Aside from being obtuse, I’d have to say that there are some unspoken assumptions in there. I will admit that I pulled this definition expecting to find some theoretical issues, but they really did make it easier that I expected.
According to whose “aesthetic principles,” exactly? Mine? I doubt it!
And then, it follows up with another even more surprising notion, just begging for attention: apparently, art “is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” Don’t worry, I’m not planning to take you on a wilderness trek through the philosophy of beauty and what it is/isn’t. The assumptions I’m questioning here are even more basic.
Art has to be beautiful?
One word: Guernica.
Does it have to be appealing?
Umm, I guess the person who wrote that definition wasn’t around to see any Marcel DuChamp. Though many of the art critics of his day would probably agree with the dictionary definition!
Does it even have to be significant?
Vincent Van Gogh’s work was almost completely unknown until well after his death. Does that mean the intrinsic art-ness of his paintings did not exist until somebody came along and said, “Hey, these are pretty good!”
I guess we know where the dictionary stands. The amazing mysteriousness about art is that at it’s very core, it is constantly striving to defy any constraints placed on it. Luckily for us, we don’t have to depend on this terse, alienating sentence to tell us what art is. Everyone has an idea (whether it’s a kernel or a fully matured philosophy) of what art means to them.
To illustrate the poignant, personal side of art, I asked some of our COCA staff members for their own individual definition of art. As you will see, there are some common threads, but they are all quite different. The artistry of the human mind is an awesome thing!
• Art is something that everyone interprets differently.
• Art appreciates everyone, yet not everyone appreciates art.
• Art is something created for people to observe, enjoy, reflect, be inspired, think or merely comment.
• Art is what someone is trying to say but is better said without words.”
“To me, art is many different things but most importantly it is the result of stimulating thoughts and emotions.”
“Art is expression in all sorts of wonderful forms!”
“Outwardly expressed, abstracted or patterned ideas designed with intent.”
“The external manifestation of internal creativity.”
“Art is beyond definition. What makes one person say, ‘what the heck?’ makes the next person say, ‘ah I get it!’ And that’s what makes it so captivating.”
So, what is art to you?
Written by Kate Olympiadis. Kate is a visual artist and lifelong logophiliac who works in the Administrative and Marketing departments at COCA.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she enters and leaves a place. At COCA’s Patron Services desk, we enjoy observing our patrons in the front lobby. The “regulars” walk in purposefully, a heavy dance bag slung over the shoulder or well-worn play script grasped tightly in hand. These focused artists know where to go and what to do.
Then, there are the “occasional patrons” who visit a few times a year, are familiar with the building, and stroll in to ask about the latest gallery exhibit or to purchase tickets to a performance. Our current photography exhibit, Michael Eastman and Master Artist Series Students, makes everyday objects, like windows and water fountains, beautiful. Children of all ages will be fascinated by juggling, bunnies, ballerinas, hip-hoppers, pasta, music and more in this season’s Family Theatre Series.
While our regulars make us feel like family and the occasional patrons are pleasant to see again, it’s the patron who shows up for the first time that really inspires. Nothing can match their look of awe. They stand in the doorway and look around the bright, spacious atrium lobby. Some take a deep breath; most smile. I like to think that the openness offers enough space for big dreams. Perhaps the abundant natural light illuminates the creative spark within themselves, their children, or grandchildren. They are delighted and intrigued by Currents, a permanent art installation of hand-sculpted waves, LED lights, and soundscape compositions.
It’s inspiring to know that even in difficult economic times, people are still responding to their desire to create or to watch a play about those who aren’t afraid to create. On October 8 and 9, we’ll see how famous surrealist painter Renee Magritte responded to his artistic call in the Children’s Theatre Company production of This is Not a Pipe Dream.
Improved self-esteem and confidence are common remarks that parents write on COCA’s class evaluation forms. “That’s good,” says Director of Arts Education Shawna Flanigan. “It means that the teachers are taking them into unchartered territory.”
What’s the benefit of being inspired and taking risks? What do inspired people bring to the community? They understand that there is a process to help them follow their calling: to share an idea, to design a plan, to nurture a gift. Inspired people don’t give up. They believe in dreams and push boundaries in their communities.
Whatever your reason for visiting COCA this season, we hope that you leave more inspired than you were when you entered our front doors. And wherever you are in your artistic pursuits—whether viewing our gallery for the first time or dancing center stage for your fourth year—we are pleased that you’ve chosen COCA to fuel your creative spark.
Written by Ann Phillips. Ann is a dance enthusiast and creative writer who works in the Patron Services department at COCA.
A recent study sponsored by the Missouri Arts Alliance in Education (MAAE) shows a positive relationship between participation in the arts and academic achievement.
Interchange, a collaborative program of COCA, provides artists to schools to help teachers integrate the arts in their classrooms.
Interchange supports arts-integrated learning through:
- Professional development of teachers, administrators and teaching artists. This is done through on-site coaching, a summer institute, school-year workshops and opportunities to participate in national arts education programs.
- Programmatic and financial support of partnerships between arts and cultural organizations and classroom teachers. The most important work Interchange does is to facilitate the in-classroom work of SLPS teachers in tandem with teaching artists.
- Documentation and evaluation of arts integration. Learning is not just happening in the classroom, it’s built into the Interchange model.
- Advocating for arts education. Interchange partners with principals, teachers, parents, and community members to ensure arts education remains an integral part of each child¹s education in the St. Louis Public Schools.
And you can get involved!
- Engage your students in learning by integrating the arts into your lesson plans.
- Seek partnerships with arts specialists and teaching artists to help you strategize ways to bring the arts into your classroom.
- Get involved in your child’s education ‹ join your local parent-teacher organization, and ask for arts integration in your child’s school.
- Become an arts active parent. Bring arts and culture into your child’s life as often as possible.
- Sign up for email alerts and updates.
- Take advantage of the many cultural opportunities in your school and the community.
- Have an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try creative ways to learn new things.
- Become a member of Interchange and join other area arts and cultural organizations supporting arts-integrated learning in the St. Louis Public Schools.
- Develop a cadre of teaching artists who want to partner with classroom teachers.
- Advocate for the arts in public schools. Contact the Special Administrative Board and your elected representatives about the importance of arts education and arts-integrated learning.
- Provide financial support for arts integration through Interchange.
The Art of the Explosion? Dancing on Air? Check these – and many more – out on ArtsEdge. The Kennedy Center sponsors this amazing website with a wealth of information, video and arts lesson plans.
Posted in Arts Education.