Cultural Quarterly
Summer 2008
Volume XXI, Number 3
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Broward County Excels
in the Art of Arts Education
By Stephanie Krulik

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As any artist or performer will tell you, art consists of much more than just viewing a finished piece or watching a play, concert, ballet or the like.  The artistic experience is much grander – both for the individual who creates it and the person who observes it.
And so, in an effort to help the next generation of artists and audience members understand the entire phenomenon of the arts, Broward County has fostered an exceptionally strong and diverse array of programs in music education, voice, dance, drama, beginning and advanced visual arts – and even theatrical set design.  

Florida Youth Orchestra
Florida Youth Orchestra

            The Florida Youth Orchestra, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, is just one part of a diverse community of Broward County performing artists that are our cultural ambassadors. This group of 300 young people was founded in 1988 by Myra Weaver and her late husband, Bob, who saw a need for children to learn, perform and appreciate classical music. The main stage concerts are performed at Bailey Concert Hall and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, among other venues.
Music Director Thomas Sleeper has 92 advanced musicians who play in the Principal Orchestra, while intermediate musicians play in the Florida Youth Orchestra Symphony. All levels of string students play in the Repertory, Chamber or Alpha Strings. Forty outreach ensembles play for charity or civic groups. Generations offers a reception with the musicians in senior centers. Major Music Presents is a concert series for children under age 12. Two different instruments are brought twice a week to the Kids in Distress’ summer music camp. For the second time, the Principal Orchestra will perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Myra Weaver says, “All of our musicians are getting a learning experience unlike anything else musically in South Florida. This matters.”

Florida Singing Sons Choir
Florida Singing Sons Choir

Director Craig Denison of Florida’s Singing Sons Boychoir says the boys are offered a sense of adventure along with an exceptional vocal experience that allows them to continue as adults in other music programs. Third and fourth grade boys in Broward schools begin in the training choir, where they learn to work together to develop community and team work. Intermediate singers are part of the Residence Choir, while the Second Generation is a teenage group.
The highest level voices sing in the Concert Choir, which has performed with numerous organizations such as the Symphony of the Americas, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Florida Grand Opera. They have traveled to Montreal and, for the second time, to South Africa this summer. Denison says, “The boys learn to use their voices to make music. They learn that anything is possible.”

Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater Group

Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theater Group

Many of these organizations have been providing arts education programs for years. The Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre serves 32,000 people annually.  It offers classes for children ages 3½ to 18 and employs the use of theater skills to develop confidence. By working as a team, the students are taught improvisation and movement. Janet Erlick, the executive artistic director explains there are two shows a year for teens, such as Shakespeare or a Holocaust drama, that are artistically and personally challenging.
The choice of seven- to eight-week classes allows children to perform at special events and festivals. Cooperation with the School Board of Broward County maintains in-school outreach programs – The Bridge from Me to You for fifth grade and From Page to Stage for younger grades – that provide reading improvement and literary skills. One especially delicate program, Deliver the Dream, partners with families dealing with terminal illness or health crisis. Erlick says, “This field is critically important today. It brings people together while imparting student success.”

Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

The Portfolio Academy at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, headed by Executive Director Joy Satterlee and Susan Rakes, director of education curriculum, is for students who want to pursue a career in the arts. The program is available to elementary, middle and high school students as a fee-based or scholarship program.  Students on a free and reduced school lunch program can qualify for the scholarships. "No child is turned away," says Satterlee.  High school students gather professional skills by learning about artists and their art-making process. Their work is displayed in student gallery spaces at the Young Circle Visual Arts Building.  Students create portfolios which can be used for application to art schools, universities or to further their art education. The younger students may be accepted into Broward County magnet schools.

Young At Art Childrens Museum
Young At Art Childrens Museum

Young At Art Children’s Museum exists because Mindy Shrago had a dream that became a reality.  Shrago, the founding president and executive director says, “Children were lost in art and I wanted to find a way back.” This hands-on museum in Davie provides a way for children to see the world, ask and answer questions and find a balance between art and life experiences. The child learns to think beyond what he or she sees. Youngsters can re-interpret visually their own ideas, feelings and dreams. This summer, The Magic School Bus teaches children about the relationship between Florida’s busiest season by enabling them to attend workshops and make kinetic art.
Through a partnership with the Broward County schools, homeless children who are in level two transition shelters go every day after school to a church on Third Avenue in Fort Lauderdale or to the Broward Outreach Center in Hollywood. The children learn art, music and computers and are given homework assistance.  In 2008, Young At Art received – for the second time – the Met Life Promising Practice Award from the Association of Children’s Museums to replicate this program nationally on the web, in cooperation with the Homeless Coalition.

Inside Out Theatre Production at Museum of Art/ Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University

Inside Out Theatre Production
at Museum of Art/ Fort Lauderdale
Nova Southeastern University

The Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale at One East Las Olas Boulevard has established itself as a home for some of the world’s greatest art. Two of its significant education programs, Art Studios and the Inside Out Theatre, are directed by Anthony Lauro, deputy director of curatorial and education programs, and Janette Gomez, education registrar. Reflecting Lauro’s belief that “all art is intriguing,” the year-round studio art school for students of all ages offers formal curriculum-based classes taught by professional artists.
The museum’s creative summer art camp incorporates interdisciplinary studies of musical theater and maquette set design for production in the Inside Out Theatre. Artistic Director Robin Braun oversees the program. The museum has brought back the summer arts festival that offers the community a glimpse at studio school artists at work.

Participants at Dance and Drama Conference
Participants at Dance
and Drama Conference

This is an extraordinary collection of artistic endeavors. There is an exemplary cooperation between the Children’s Services Council and the Broward Cultural Division that introduces performing and visual art education as an after-school activity to students from underserved populations in pre-kindergarten through middle school. “We are developing an audience of art appreciators,” says Patricia Zeiler, arts education specialist for the Broward Cultural Division.  “As long as these programs are in place there is somewhere for these children to go.”
County, state and federal grants provide $500,000 in funding per year to the Children's Services Council for classes in 45 different sites.  Zeiler maintains an online computer directory of teaching artists who are selected to work with the children.  .She says having these artists go to the children is “like having a field trip without the expense of the trip.”  The program is complemented by the Summer Arts Integration Conference for teachers, which is presented in collaboration with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  This year’s program, Exercising Creativity: Developing the Whole Child Through the Arts, the fifth annual conference for teachers and teaching artists on arts integration will take place on Wednesday, August 13, 2008. 

The cooperation between these two organizations – one of which provides leadership in enhancing children’s lives and one that is dedicated to enhancing Broward County through the arts – is fundamental. Steven Glassman, arts education and community development program manager for the Cultural Division, says, “The partnership with the Children’s Services Council provides a networking opportunity for us to approach them. It provides another option in our quest to bring the best arts education to all children of Broward County.”

With the understanding that the programs discussed here are just a few of the arts education initiatives underway in Broward County throughout the year, it seems evident that our community’s children will be able to experience the arts to the fullest.  To learn more about arts education efforts in our area, please visit

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