ArtsBridge Day: an inside perspective

Tiffany VanBoxtel

There was a sense of excitement and movement on campus Friday, May 9. Over 300 students ranging in ages from four to 17 participated in the culmination of almost a year of work for 12 ArtsBridge scholars.
ArtsBridge Day performances took place in the chapel and featured several acts. Kindergartners did the hula with puppets, first graders performed a radio show complete with a Superman rap, fifth graders drummed, sang and danced and high school students did a traditional dance from Ghana with the help of a Lawrence percussion ensemble.
There were also exhibits that featured student projects. Homemade banjos, a miniature theatre, puppets made out of household items and student-made soundtracks were among the many items on exhibit in Riverview and the Wriston auditorium.
ArtsBridge America was created at the University of California Irvine by none other than Lawrence President Jill Beck. In this program, university students go to area schools with the goal of integrating the arts into core-curriculum subjects. ArtsBridge America is used by 25 universities nationwide, but no school conducts a larger operation than Lawrence University.
Attendance at ArtsBridge Day was a little slim except for the students, the ArtsBridge scholars and a few parents. The low attendance was especially bizarre because of the support that ArtsBridge usually receives from Lawrence and the community.
Oddly enough, Jill Beck was not in attendance, and Congressman Steve Kagen sent a representative in his place. However, an employee from U.S. Bank was present and thoroughly enjoyed himself as he evaluated the program for a grant.
As an ArtsBridge scholar, it was quite overwhelming and yet rewarding for me to try to give 38 students the “Lawrence Experience.” My usually well-behaved fifth graders were influenced by all of the positive excitement and energy of the event and became demons that even my black-belt skills could not keep up with. Thankfully, there were many members of the Greek community who volunteered to help herd the masses.
For the ArtsBridge scholars, the event was a commitment that lasted for the entirety of reading period.
We worked most of the day Thursday making final preparations. Friday was spent being enthusiastic sheepdogs for squirming children. Saturday, we recovered from the mayo-soaked subs that we had been served. Finally, Sunday was a frantic catch-up game in which we tried to fulfill all of the wonderful aspirations of getting ahead on homework that everybody dreams about. That’s right, scholars. Sit in Downer and laugh as you read this. This is exactly what happened to you!
All in all, our effort was rewarded by the smiles on the kids’ faces — even as those faces were plastered on bus windows making pig faces at us. It made me realize that art is justified. After ArtsBridge Day, we ArtsBridge scholars were tired, but also knew that we had done our duty and strengthened our passions for art and education.

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