Visiting Artist Virtual Site Visit
By Samantha Topacio, Administrative Assistant
Philanthropic Ventures Foundation’s Visiting Artist in the Classroom Grant Program has given several classrooms the opportunity to learn about and experience art in new and inspiring ways. Made possible by funding from The Geballe Family, these $500 grants have enabled Bay Area teachers to invite passionate and knowledgeable artists to their classrooms to share their expertise and unique perspectives with students by leading fun hands-on projects.
More recently, a couple of the PVF staff had the opportunity to virtually attend Lawton Alternative School’s final Spirit Series performance, a three-week drama-based literacy program that uses storytelling and poetry to help develop critical thinking and healthy self-expression in grades 4 through 8. Put on by the 6th grade classes of grantees Heather Wong and Katrina Tilds, students performed a one-act play to tell the story of Siddhartha, a sheltered young prince who chooses to leave his life of luxury in the search of deeper meaning and purpose. Although much of the script for the play is provided by Spirit Series, a large part of the dialogue is left blank, which in turn allowed the students to write and perform their own poetry. After the performance, Spirits Series Co-Founder David Abel discussed the philosophical basis for the play – asking what the students thought about regrets, senses of true purpose, and what it means to live a “happy” life. By first playing out the narrative of Siddhartha’s life, students were able to take lessons from the story then think critically about their own lives and values.
So much more than the average class play, Spirit Series directly engaged with challenging subjects and rewarded students for expansive and critical thinking. Students not only had the opportunity to ponder philosophical questions, but they also got to learn about a culture and religion different from their own. This play was a fun and creative project to get students to build understanding and empathy for others. This is just one of the many Visiting Artist projects that have used out-of-the-box arts instruction to motivate teachers and students. If you are interested in bringing a similar experience to your classroom, we encourage all low-income public school educators in Alameda, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties to share your idea with us!
Students performing a Spirit Series production of “Buddha Walks” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Image credit: https://www.spiritseries.org/