Nearly 1,000 students filed into the Paramount Theater Monday to watch actor and artist Kevin Reese construct a 17-foot wide mobile that extended into the audience.
Reese’s one-man play, A Perfect Balance, kicked off the 2013-14 season of the Paramount Theater’s Arts Education program.
“I believe in this thoroughly because it takes you out into the real world and shows you how things are being applied,” Buford Middle School Art Teacher Desmond Cormier said. “Here [students] see that everything about education isn’t contained to the classroom.”
The program, which features 9 productions and runs through April, has served almost 100,000 students since the Theater’s 2004 reopening.
Katherine Davis, the Paramount’s Marketing Director, said that staff go to great lengths to choose productions that align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning, noting that elements of the play met student’s visual arts, math, science, history, and music curriculum.
“The goal of the arts education program is to fuse learning with performing arts,” Davis said. “We specifically pick programs that are in conjunction with what they are learning in the classroom and that are for specific ages.”
In addition to performance selection, the Paramount also goes to extremes to make arts learning opportunities available to all students, regardless of income level.
“We have a scholarship program, so any kid that qualifies for free and reduced meals qualifies for the scholarship,” Davis said. “We have a tremendous amount of kids who are able to come because of donations to our scholarship program.”
For the second year, the Arts Education program is extending into the schools, with Reese holding a week-long residency at Buford Middle School. Each day this week, Reese will work with art students from concept to construction of a structure that will be housed at Buford.
Last year, Reese designed and built a piece with Charlottesville High School students that is installed in the school’s atrium.
Cormier said that his students do well when learning about and creating art outside of the classroom, citing yearly trips to New York to visit museums, and sketching exercises in the middle school’s garden as examples.
The Paramount’s next performance, Aladdin and other Enchanting Tales, is on Friday, October 18.
For more information about the Arts Education program, please visit www.theparamount.net.