Any Given Child

Students in Madison's public elementary and middle schools will be able to experience more and different kinds of arts as part of new initiatives through Any Given Child.

Shown here, Nick Hatfield, a 5th grade student at Lowell Elementary School, poses with his self portrait on display at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ as part of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Gallery Night.

File photo

After a year of surveys, training and arts-centric pilot programs in Madison's public elementary and middle schools, advocates behind Any Given Child Madison have some clear goals for making sure every student gets a chance to sing, sculpt and step.

Stepping, a percussive style of African-American dance, could be among the newer art forms local students will experience in school, thanks to Any Given Child.

As The Capital Times first reported in July 2013, Any Given Child is a nationwide initiative conducted by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the goal of expanding and deepening arts access — here, specifically, for Madison public school students in grades K-8.

"We've already got great arts in place, which is one of the reasons we were chosen by the Kennedy Center," said Ray Gargano, director of programming and community Engagement at Overture Center for the Arts and a lead organizer for Any Given Child Madison.

"We can expand on that and go places we've never been before."

On Friday, Any Given Child Madison's 40-person "community arts" team of city officials, arts educators and school administrators (among others) released its first update about where the program has been and where it's headed.

For example, in 2013-14, Overture Center hosted training for 15 teaching artists. As part of the program, artists received several days of training from The Kennedy Center's Karen Erickson, created an artist residency plan, got feedback and were matched with a school.

Nine of the 15 artists actually implemented their programs. Last year at Hawthorne Elementary School, theater educator Terry Kerr, a program developer with First Act Children's Theatre, compared making an educated guess in a science experiment with the theatrical art of improvisation.

Lyric tenor Adam Shelton, aka "DocOpera," brought Madison Opera's "The Daughter of the Regiment" into Cherokee Middle School classes. Percussionist Cody White called his program at Lake View Elementary "Write What You Hear," and helped students combine music and storytelling to compose original songs.

Fabu, former city of Madison poet laureate, used Stuart Little as a way to connect poetry with "positive self identity" at Falk Elementary, Gargano said.

This year, the program has expanded to include 25 teaching artists. Among them are Pacal Bayley (DJ Pain 1), Broadway veteran Karen Olivo, Theatre LILA artistic director Jessica Lanius, hip hop artist Mark "Shah" Evans, media artist Ellen Pincus, jazz pianist Jack Watson, textile artist Rebecca Sites, muralist Sharon Kilfoy and trombonist Jamie Kember.

The training, which is closed to new applicants for this year, is open to "all levels of expertise," Gargano said.

"Our goal is to take artists into the classroom," Gargano said, "or bring kids to a center to explore those arts forms. There are no arts specialists in spoken word or hip hop dance.

"Right now there are no dance or theater arts specialists in the schools," he added. "That's why we're training community artists to have those educational chops to go into the classroom and help support that gap."

In addition, newer art forms like media arts (computer animation, virtual art, video games, etc.) are simply not represented in Madison's public elementary/middle schools in any consistent way.

"By including community artists, we're able to expand arts for students," Gargano said.

Coming in the spring via Any Given Child Madison will be an Arts Education Fair in April 2015, which would bring together arts and cultural organizations that have educational programs to exhibit their work at Overture Center. The Henry Vilas Zoo could exhibit alongside the Madison Symphony Orchestra and a local folk artist, for example.

The hope, similar to what the Madison Cultural Plan outlined, is to create a professional network for artists with an interest in education.

"The idea of Any Given Child is to create systems that break down communication and transportation barriers," Gargano said. "We hope that it's popular and we're able to expand it."

There are now arts liaisons for every elementary/middle school building. Some are teachers and some are parents; they get paid a small stipend and meet regularly.

A model for arts integration creates crossover points among math, science and English teachers who can incorporate more arts into their lesson plans, teachers in areas like visual arts and music, and community-based artist educators.

"The arts need to incorporate academic areas as much as academic areas need to incorporate arts," Gargano said.

In July, Any Given Child Madison received a $125,000 grant from the estate of Carl M. Hudig to begin building the ongoing programs that will take Any Given Child forward into the next few years.

The team will continue looking for grants, with the goal of making a website where, for example, a teacher could search a database for a teaching artist specializing in Shakespeare, or a math teacher could reach a percussionist.

The funding will not be for individual organizations to to create art or for classroom materials, Gargano said. No end monetary goal has been set.

"Any Given Child is ongoing," he said. "We hope to continue to raise funds to do this."

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Since 2008, Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, fine wine and good stories. She lives on the east side with her husband, two cats and too many cookbooks.