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Arts in Education: Fostering student development through amazing performances

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From February 24 through 26, there will be a showing of the play Almost Maine in Fort Collins. Written by John Cariani and set in the fictitious Maine town of Almost, this play follows one extraordinary night in the lives of nineteen townspeople. Named one of the top ten plays of 2004-2005, it is bound to be a great show.

What is more exciting about this production, though, is not just the play itself but the people putting it on. The students at Poudre High School have taken on the challenge of performing Almost Maine, and the payoff is sure to be huge. Cariani, an accomplished actor himself, made sure his play was both challenging and rewarding to its performers. This particular production is no exception, as only six students will be playing the roles of all nineteen characters. This really demonstrates their talent, hard work, and dedication, their young age aside. Considered the school’s “varsity” show, Almost Maine certainly boasts a lot of talent.

We know that the arts can have a huge impact on students. Learning to be creative, to express oneself through a positive medium, and to work as a team fosters both professional and social growth. But involvement in the arts also helps students out academically. According to a study by the National School Boards Association and Americans for the Arts in 2004, the arts are vital to education completion and contribute to a rising in student achievement. Students who participated in the arts were found to be 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools, and 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance, to name just a few points.

Studies also show that early involvement in the arts is helpful, too. And thanks to Suna Thomas, middle school students in Fort Collins can be active in the arts through music as well. In November, we found out about a band Suna helped form at Kinard Middle School that was creating places for kids to play instruments not always covered in school bands and orchestras ( With a unique blend of guitars, bass, drums, and electric instruments, the Kinard Middle School House Band has gained some serious popularity, playing at a Colorado Eagles game and at Art Lab Fort Collins. Suna has now founded the Kids Create the Music Foundation, an organization that helps encourage music in schools on the student’s terms. Allowing the students themselves to pursue their craft and learn through the arts is an amazing accomplishment.

Both at the junior high and high school level, students are getting more involved in the arts. They are challenging themselves in their own disciplines, creating music, performances, and art with as much talent as any professional. And while students gain advantages through arts education, they are also playing a vital role in the Fort Collins community. The entertainment and opportunity they provide for viewers and peers is fostering continuous growth in our town.

Students often go on after graduation to become accomplished in many professions, and few will follow careers in the arts. However, what they are learning and contributing right now through their involvement in the arts is invaluable. It is what helps build the accomplished future that they strive for.

Be sure to check out Almost Maine:
Where: Poudre High School, 201 S. Impala St.
When: February 24-26, 7:00pm
Tickets: $8 regular price, $6 student price.
Visit or call (970) 488-6212 for more ticket info.

For more information on the Kinard Middle School House Band and Kids Create the Music Foundation, please visit

Imagination gives you the picture!

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I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

Albert Einstein

The fewer expectations you have, the better.
Laurie Anderson

Although we often separate art and science as distinct pursuits, innovative art and science are connected by the process of creative imagination.  Throughout history, human imagination has consistently stretched the question of “why?” into the realm of “why not?” and in the process, adjusted our very concepts of reality.  However you define it, Imagination, involves the process of reorganizing what we think we know.  It’s the ability to question and risk seeing something outside the boundaries of what is “supposed,” to be—the rearranging of variables in new ways!  Collectively, we often imagine someone like Albert Einstein, with his signature tousled hair, as a genius for his construction of knowledge and contributions to physics.  Einstein published over 300 hundred scientific works, (and more than 150 non-scientific ones)—no small feat—he also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” 

Another innovative thinker, Carl Sagan said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”  Where has your imagination taken you lately?  This weekend you don’t have to physically travel very far to explore new possibilities, and stretch your imagination.  At the free Beet Street Imagination Fair, downtown, Fort Collins, (June 5, 5-9 p.m.) you can experience performances and demonstrations that explode the boundaries of science and technology, art and music!  This month’s First Friday Gallery Walk (the monthly, evening, opportunity to explore the visual art offerings in Old Town) has an added performance dimension where cutting edge technology meets artistic expression.

On Saturday, at the Oak Street Plaza, Christopher “C3” Cardone demonstrates that becoming an accomplished musician is not a destination, but the ticket to musically travel even further.  He builds his own instruments to create an amazing range of sounds and rhythms.  Don’t miss your opportunity to journey to his corner of the universe—you never know what will be included in his performance!   Later, That 1 Guy, aka Mike Silverman, will continue to push the limits of making music.  Silverman, a classically trained upright bassist, imagined and engineered a bass out of electronically wired steel plumbing in an effort to find the perfect sound.  You’re invited to hear his solutions!

At Opera Galleria (123 North College), event partner, Discovery Science Center, Colorado’s NASA link site, will showcase NASA exhibits and “hands-on” activities.  You can also see award-winning student science fair exhibits.  The Poudre School District’s Alpine Robotics Team 159 (students from Poudre High School, Lincoln and Preston Junior Highs) will demonstrate their robotic inventions, and the CSU Engines and Energy Conservation Laboratory will showcase their low cost, high-performance cookstoves, engineered for the developing world. Imagine that!  Kids of all ages are also invited to not only listen but “play” Laser Harps with traditional harp strings replaced by laser strings.  The harps were designed so that large groups can play simultaneously, using interactive movement, dance, and light to trigger sound. The result?  A visual and musical performance you won’t forget!  Impact Dance Company will also join in for special collaborative performances at 5:30pm, 6:30pm, 7:30pm, 8:30pm.

Then on Saturday evening, creative pioneer, visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist Laurie Anderson will be in Fort Collins to follow the Imagination Fair.  Get your ticket to be transported by her Burning Leaves: A Retrospective, Songs and Stories 2009 at the Lincoln Center box office. Anderson, a self proclaimed “techno-geek,” spins offbeat adventure stories, in an intimate evening of voice, electronics and violin.  Her songs and stories include pieces from her acclaimed solo shows The Speed of Darkness, Happiness, The End of the Moon, and Homeland.  Among many accomplishments, in 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA—and you can hear some of her avant-garde interpretation of her adventures into that great unknown.  Don’t be surprised if her surreal melodies and your imagination sweep you off on an unexpected trip!

Nothing happens without a start as a dream.

Thanks for the photos Don Solo and Jorge Barahona

Deborah Lombard