Arts Spotlight: Giving Kids a Chance to Shine

Study after study shows that involvement in the arts gives kids a better chance of academic success, enhances cognitive development and leads to greater civic engagement and more gainful employment.  Nearly all of the organizations ArtsFund supports offer youth programs. Last year, ArtsFund grantees provided over 815,000 tickets to students. And these organizations go beyond getting young people to the arts, offering the opportunity to be in the center of the spotlight as well!

From elementary to high school, we spotlight three great programs of ArtsFund grantees giving kids a chance to shine. This March, students will be in the studios and on the stages at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Jack Straw Cultural Center, and Seattle Repertory Theatre.


Pacific Northwest Ballet, DISCOVER DANCE

On March 21, more than 300 elementary and middle school students from four public schools will perform works they have created on stage at McCaw Hall. The performance is a culmination of DISCOVER DANCE, PNB’s largest education program. PNB partners with schools that would otherwise provide no dance instruction or standards-based movement curriculum. DISCOVER DANCE teaching artists and musicians work for three months in each school, guiding students as they choreograph their dances. In addition to student work, PNB Company dancers, REACH Student Dance Group, and the Graham Hill Elementary School Chorus will also perform on March 21.

“The entire process is very important to our school. [The students] are so proud of their own bravery when they perform.”- 4th grade teacher

Click here to watch a video featuring DISCOVER DANCE students.


Jack Straw Cultural Center and Concord International Elementary School

For the past five years, Jack Straw’s writers, musicians, and audio engineers have been working with Concord’s first, second, and fourth graders to write, perform, and record poetry and songs based on their own words. Poet Vicky Edmonds works with the students on a range of topics from bullying and forgiveness to this year’s poems about salmon. Each grade level, students spend more time with the artists. Fourth graders visit Jack Straw Cultural Center to work one on one with professional actors and engineers in the recording studios to record their favorite new poem. While one student works reading a poem with a vocal coach, other students give feedback from the control room as they help the engineer record. All students receive a CD of their own and classmates’ new work.

If you’re interested in observing a studio session or wish to know more about Jack Straw’s programs, please email


Seattle Repertory Theater, August Wilson Monologue Competition

For a fifth year, Seattle Rep will participate in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, a national competition that introduces high school students to the work of America’s most celebrated African American playwright (who was also a Seattle resident for the last 15 years of his life). Wilson is best known for his Century Cycle, a series of ten plays reflecting on the African American experience set in each decade of the 20th century. Seattle Rep hosts in-class workshops for more than 500 students during the fall and winter, introducing students to the competition and to Wilson’s body of work. Contestants may select a Wilson monologue and receive private coaching from theatre professionals in preparation for the competition. Ten regional finalists will compete on the Leo K. Theatre stage on March 17, 2015, with the winners receiving cash prizes and a trip to New York to compete in the national finals in May 2015.

“I believe that working with a monologue is one of the most difficult and rewarding challenges that any actor can encounter,” commented Zenobia Taylor, a first place Seattle finalist in the 2013 competition. “It teaches you so much about character analysis—you learn how to empathize with your character, find commonalities and discover how to tell their story. The August Wilson Monologue Competition was such a gratifying experience, and getting to work with Wilson’s words was nothing short of an honor.”

Click here to learn more or reserve tickets.

ArtsFund is proud to support these organizations, and many more throughout our region, giving kids the chance to shine.

Click here for a complete list of ArtsFund grantees.


Photo by Eden Schwartz, courtesy Jack Straw Cultural Center.