Wednesday, June 15, 2016

End of Year Reflection

Rie Poirier-Campbell, Executive Director

With the school year at an end, I’ve been thinking about some of the truly exciting, student-centered work that’s been happening this year through Hartford Performs’ partnership with the Hartford Public Schools.

Hartford Performs has been working closely with the district for the last six years to systematically provide arts experiences to students throughout the city.  We bring teaching artists into classrooms to help students learn all manner of curriculum through the arts  ̶  because when kids learn to dance like molecules, drum mathematical progressions, or act out a scene from history, they learn those lessons more deeply and personally.

Just as important, we bring Hartford students out to cultural venues across the region so that they feel connected to  ̶  and welcome in  ̶  Greater Hartford’s museums, concert halls and studios.

This school year alone, we provided exciting, engaging, educational arts experiences to 13,600 Hartford Public School students – every single student in each of 32 PreK-Grade 8 schools, neighborhood and magnet alike.  More than 100 professional teaching artists delivered 800 student programs this year. Every student in each of those 32 schools received at least two Hartford Performs programs this year.  Many received three, four or even five programs. 

I should note that every program we provide is aligned with Common Core State Standards and specifically selected by teachers to complement what his or her students are studying.  And those programs are powerful.

I saw one student suddenly grasp what one-eighth meant when he had to color a grid one-quarter purple and one-eighth yellow in a drawing.

I’ve read notes from second graders who were surprised to discover that lighting and costumes can influence how they feel about characters on a stage.

And I heard one very proud parent say that when his sixth-grade daughter saw a performance about the Amistad at the Old State House, it both gave her a new respect for her city, and sparked in her an intense passion for civil rights. 

That’s powerful.

The work that our students are doing with Hartford Performs is so exciting that it even got the attention of The New York Times this year.  The Sunday, January 10, edition of the Times featured a story called “Granting Artistic License to Learn.”  In it, Hartford Public Schools were seen as an innovative example of how learning can be joyful when the arts are integrated into classroom work.

Hartford Performs is pleased to provide some of that innovation through our partnership with Hartford Public Schools. We look forward to serving even more students next year, and can’t wait to see what exciting developments the 2016/2017 school year has in store for us!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One Focus

Rie Poirier-Campbell, Executive Director

Just six short weeks ago, I had the great good fortune of becoming Executive Director of Hartford Performs. Since then, I’ve been on a fast-paced, artful, educational journey to learn about its many facets.

What I’ve found is an impressive collaboration of educators, artists, business people and community leaders. That’s a powerful combination. Hartford Performs is a creative network of diversely talented people from many sectors of our community all gathered together around one central focus: Hartford students.

I can’t tell you how many times each week I hear our fabulous staff – Jaclynn and Larisa – say, “It’s for the students.” 

When we’re scheduling dozens of artists’ appearances in classrooms each week, it’s for the students. When we’re providing professional development to artists to help them use their dance or theater talents to teach math or social studies, it’s for the students. When we’re working with teachers to select the right arts offering to enhance their science curriculum, it’s for the students.

Everything that Hartford Performs does is, indeed, all for the children of Hartford. It’s to make their education richer, deeper, more meaningful, more interesting and more long lasting. The idea behind Hartford Performs is that the arts are not only important in and of themselves; they have the ability to enrich learning of all types. 

Students, for instance, might read about how molecules move at different temperatures, but when they get up and dance like molecules, they get it right down to their toes. They might hear a lesson about the Civil War, but when they have to act out a scene about the conflict, they have some great Ah Ha! moments about motivations and consequences. 

Using the arts to enhance lessons help students to understand so much more deeply. Plus, it makes their classrooms more engaging and truly student-centered. Teaching through the arts calls on students to explore and create. They need to invest themselves in their learning. So while students are drumming, dancing, acting or making a mural, they are developing desirable skills such as creative problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and presentation skills.

By bringing the arts into the classroom and bringing the students out to see the arts at work in the community, we’re helping to develop young minds that, yes, know a lot of things, AND (even more important) know better how to think.

The techniques we use help Hartford public school students to become interested, interesting people. They foster students’ sense of exploration, their ability to think critically, and come up with truly innovative approaches to challenges. Isn’t that what we want from the people we are going to trust to run our world someday?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hartford Performs Appoints New Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Hartford Performs announces the appointment of Rie Poirier-Campbell as the new Executive Director of Hartford Performs. Poirier-Campbell will be succeeding Robert Warren, who has left the position due to health reasons.

Most recently Vice President of Advancement at the Connecticut Science Center, Poirier-Campbell has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, overseeing strategic direction, governance, fund development, grant writing, community and government relations, marketing and communications. Prior to her time at the Connecticut Science Center, she worked for 12 years at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, serving as the Chief Operating Officer from 2009 to 2012.

In making the announcement, Mike Stotts, Managing Director of Hartford Stage and Co-Chair of Hartford Performs stated, “I am delighted to welcome Rie to Hartford Performs, an organization she knows very well.  As a seasoned arts professional, with a keen interest in the education of Hartford students, she brings all of the qualities and skills we are looking for in our Executive Director.  I look forward to working with Rie to continue to build on the rapid success of the organization, and carry us forward to a new period of growth and impact, integrating the arts in the education of students at all Hartford Public Schools.”

Echoing Stotts’ sentiments, Jackie Coleman, Senior Executive Advisor for the Arts in the Hartford Public Schools said, “Rie has an understanding of the foundation on which Hartford Performs was built. She contributed to numerous community conversations during its evolution. Her background knowledge is an asset we are lucky to capitalize on and I look forward to seeing how she inspires students’ success through the arts.”

Hartford Performs is a nonprofit organization designed to ensure that all Hartford Public School students have access to quality arts education delivered through in-school teaching staff in partnership with Hartford’s vibrant arts community. The group provides a comprehensive arts integration approach that utilizes the resources of community arts providers as partners in the shared goal of raising student achievement.

“All children deserve the kind of arts education that will enliven their learning today and help make them the creative workforce of tomorrow. I'm excited to be joining a team of professionals dedicated to making that happen,” said Poirier-Campbell.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

'Year in Review'

From the desk of the Executive Director, Robert Warren

As the saying goes, a lot can happen in one year, and such a saying serves as an understatement when Hartford Performs looked back at our 2013-2014 year. While enjoying our new home in the City Arts on Pearl building in downtown Hartford, Hartford Performs served over 12,000 students through our Arts Integration programs. We received new funding, were selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and started a high school arts workgroup.

Program Performance

Hartford Performs’ crew of more than 100 Arts providers were able to integrate the arts into 26 schools this year.  Not only are kids taking to these arts infused academic programs and performances with increased interest and excitement, but their teachers are also enthusiastic about the programs and are seeing improvement in their students’ test scores. Hartford Performs is recognized as an influential and inspirational program for Hartford Public School students.
Hartford Performs’ impact on HPS students was a key component of our presentation to the Hartford Board of Education in December which resulted in a unanimous vote to renew our contract with the district for another three years. Additionally, Hartford Performs received 501(c)3 status from the IRS officially recognizing us as a tax exempt, nonprofit organization.
The Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program will allow us to strengthen our Professional Development for teachers and arts providers. This year we will bring Kennedy Center teaching artists to Hartford to provide deepened arts integration workshops for teachers in our participating schools.  While here, they will also work with some of our own arts providers to help them create deepened arts integration workshops of their own which will be available to Hartford Performs schools and other districts in future years.
As we continue to grow, we acknowledge that grades PK-8 are not the only grades that can benefit from our programs. Therefore we started a high school arts workgroup to see what arts integration can look like at the high school level.

Thanking our New Funders
  • BeFoundation
  •   Knox Foundation
  • The Fund for Greater Hartford
  •  The Ritter Family Fund

The BeFoundation is invested in the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students and their grant is allowing us to develop a brand new database for our arts programs in partnership with the Connecticut Center of Advanced Technology (CCAT).  The Knox Foundation helps nonprofits that are working to address Hartford’s most pressing needs in the community and their funds will supplement the training required for the new system. The Fund for Greater Hartford aligns with two of our values of arts and education and is providing much needed operational support.  The Ritter Family Fund supported a teaching artist pilot program at Noah Webster School. We were thoroughly pleased to receive this new local support from these generous, community-minded organizations.
We truly appreciate when funders see the effect we are having and want to help our efforts. None of what we do would be possible without the ongoing support we receive from Hartford Public Schools, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Prudential Foundation and Travelers. Our efforts to improve the education of students could not be made possible without you.

To Another Great Year

This year there was a lot to be thankful for and we are happy to see the positive results. Next year we look forward to another strong year with continued growth by adding two more schools, enhancing professional development with the Kennedy Center’s program model, and beginning to pilot programs at the high school level. If you enjoyed reading our year in review, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! Don’t forget to like Hartford Performs on Facebook;

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ringing in the New Year with Robert - a letter from the Executive Director

It’s hard to believe that Eleven Months have already gone by since I took over the reins of Hartford Performs.  Before my one year anniversary rolls around I wanted to share some of the amazing accomplishments that the Hartford Performs team knocked off of our to-do list.  The gifts and accolades seemed to come at us in waves during the last two months but that was only after a lot of hard work and extra hours were put in. 

The tidal wave of good news began in November when we were notified that The Prudential Foundation approved a grant of $100,000 to support the continued growth of Hartford Performs and our Arts Integration Program.  The grant will allow Hartford Performs to expand programs and services to ensure every Hartford Public School student has access to quality arts education.

In early December we were given the opportunity to do a workshop for the Hartford Board of Education to bring them up to date on our progress from the first 3 years of program implementation.  We were thrilled to be able to report gains on Connecticut Master Test (CMT) scores as confirmed by an independent analysis completed in December of 2013 by Public Consulting Group (PCG).  The PCG report on Impact from 2010 – 2013 went on to say that Students who have been in Hartford Performs schools for two and three years, performed better in reading, as a group, compared with their peers who have not. Students in schools that participated in Hartford Performs for three years experienced the most improvement on CMT Reading scores, followed by students in schools that have participated for two years.

Based on this data and overwhelmingly positive response on surveys from students, teachers and principals we asked the Board of Education to renew our contract and increase their level of support.  On December 19th, at the Hartford Board of Education’s regular meeting our contract extension and funding increase was approved with no opposition. 

With only a few days remaining before the year's end we received more good news.  In a press release sent to us by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. we learned that Hartford Performs and Hartford Public Schools were one of 11 Partnership teams from across the nation selected for the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program.  Our team is very excited about this selection and for the opportunity to go to Washington to share our best practices and learn from the other National standouts.

And last but not least, in a letter dated December 30th, 2013, we learned that Hartford Performs’ year-long quest to become an independent 501(c)3 Non-profit Organization was APPROVED by the Internal Revenue Service. 

Good, better, best, never let it rest.  Building on this wave of momentum we don’t planning on resting and look forward to expanding our partnerships, adding additional programs, and to reaching more and more students as we continue to inspire students’ success through the arts. 

So to all you bloggers out there feel free to share any and all of this news.  Hope you all have a successful and inspired year filled with your own good, better and best news to share.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Inside the Classroom: An Intern's Perspective

As the end of the year gets closer, we at Hartford Performs are as busy as ever.  We are continuing to provide arts experiences to our 26 Hartford Public Schools while taking on new challenges.  My name is Lisa Rizzo and I have been the Arts Literacy Intern at Harford Performs since May of 2013.  I am also a student in my final semester at UMASS Amherst where I will be receiving a BA in Communication.  In my time here at Hartford Performs I have worked on Summer Arts Literacy, the 4th Annual Arts Integration Conference, in-school program selection and much more.  My latest project is not just new for me, but for all of us at Hartford Performs.

In mid-October I began a residency at Hartford Pre-Kindergarten Magnet School to bring more art programs to the students.  Once a week I teach various art activities and games to 3 different classes of PK 4 students.  Having a Hartford Performs intern jump into the classroom to provide programming is a new endeavor for us.  So I was excited to get into the classroom and bring my love of the arts to the students.  There have been some bumps along the way but so far it’s been a great experience.

Growing up, I never felt like I shined in my academic classes.  I was not a bad student but I never felt special in the classroom.  Until I started music class and performing clubs.  These classes gave me a creative outlet in school that I never had before.  Music taught me that I could create something beautiful with only my voice.  To this day, singing remains one of my favorite activities and my voice is something I am very proud of.  I thrived with the arts and sought it out at every opportunity.  I was involved in choir, dance, musicals, drama clubs, visual art classes and my personal favorite comedy improv classes. I believe that all students should have an opportunity to participate in the arts and see themselves in a way they haven’t before.

On a typical day at Pre-K Magnet each class will start with a good morning song.  Then the students (or “friends” as I call them) and I stretch our bodies and transition into a warm-up game.  After we are all warmed up we get started with our activities for the day.  Every day we do 2-3 brand new activities that connect to our theme for the week. Even though we follow this structure every day, every classroom at Pre-K Magnet is a different and unique experience.
I am happy to say that I have seen these students grow week after week. When I started venturing into the classroom I had three things that I hoped the students would take away from our activities in the arts and I’ve been fortunate to see examples of all three:

Enthusiasm for the Arts:
We played an energy game called “Oh le le” at the beginning of a class as a warm-up.  It’s a call and response game with movement and as you continue to play the game you say the words in silly voices and as different characters.  The students put so much effort and energy into this game.  They laughed, waved their arms, and made all the silly voices especially the dinosaur voices which were a class favorite. It was great to see them all so excited and ready to participate in the game.

Seeing Things in New Ways:
One week our theme was shapes.  After making shapes with our hands and bodies the classes each had a chance to see how objects can be made using only shapes with nothing but a dry erase board and marker.  The students and I built houses, fish, robots and more with only shapes.  Then the students named shapes at random and we put them all together to make a new shape.  Although I saw it as a clown, each class saw something completely different even though the drawing was basically the same each time.  What was a clown to the first class was a scarecrow to the second, and a snowman to the third.  The students are encouraged to see things through their own eyes.

One of my favorite moments from this experience was on the very first day.  After learning everyone’s name I wanted to introduce the students to theater.  Introduction and applause is a very simple activity and it’s exactly what it sounds like.  One at a time each student goes to the front of the classroom and says his or her name nice and loud for the “audience.”  Then they take a big bow and the audience claps and cheers in applause.  This game requires no materials and very little explanation but the impact is anything but little.  As each student took their turn their smiles went from ear to ear as they heard the applause from their peers and teachers.  In my 3 classes there is a total of about 50 students and only 3 students did not end up doing a solo bow. But even the students who were too shy or nervous to go alone were smiling and laughing when we took a big group bow at the end.

Enthusiasm, seeing things in new ways, and self-confidence are all lessons that I learned from the arts that positively shaped who I am today.  Being able to bring these positive messages to the students has been an incredible and inspiring experience.  I believe that the arts have a way of bringing out the best in who we are.  In the arts we’re allowed to be our most creative, happy, proud, and vulnerable selves.  When a student is able to jump up and sing without self-consciousness, look at a group of shapes and see something new, and take a bow like the whole world is applauding I can say that the hours of lesson planning were 100% worth the effort.   Although these wonderful four year-olds have occasional tears and tantrums, the positive impact of arts in the classroom remains evident, and I feel incredibly lucky to have shared these experiences with the students. 

With only a week left before winter vacation, my time at Hartford Performs and Pre-K Magnet is coming to a close.  But I am incredibly thankful to Hartford Performs for all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had these last 8 months.  Being in the office and in the classroom I have seen the positive effects of the arts and even though my internship will be ending I plan to continue supporting the arts and arts education in both my personal and professional life.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Settling into Fall After an Eventful Summer!

The beginning of autumn is a unique time of year. It is when I usually experience a sort of summer nostalgia and spend my time reminiscing on activities and events that made the days go by too fast. I also find myself daydreaming about the wonderful changes that come with the new season.

As an intern at Hartford Performs, this transitional period involves preparing our 26 Hartford Performs schools for the new school year as well as settling back into daily routines after a summer filled with preparation for the 4th Annual Arts Integration Conference!

But before I go any further, I’d like to take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Denise Roberts and I became the Event Coordinator and Planner Intern at Hartford Performs in May of this year. I graduated in December of 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Writing. Currently, I am in the process of obtaining a certificate in Nonprofit Management at Goodwin College. The vision of Hartford Performs aligns with my own belief that children in the Hartford community can develop into leaders and great thinkers if exposed to the appropriate resources.

What I find so wonderful about Hartford Performs’ approach is its ability to bring everyone in the community together to reach a common objective: to ensure that quality arts experiences are available to Hartford Public School students.

The Annual Arts Integration Conference is one of the events that highlight the togetherness of the Hartford Performs network. On August 21, I had the opportunity to take part in this amazing affair where teachers, artists, and several Hartford based organizations united for an Arts Integration learning experience. This experience included defining Arts Integration – which is the process of combining the arts with core curriculum such as English, Math, Science, and Social Studies – and highlighting practices that teachers can use in their classrooms.

Workshops from left to right: Learning on Their Feet, Moving Matters!, Exploring Art Masterpieces with Music and Poetry!, Nudging the Imagination, The Observant Eye
The Artists Collective (an organization that teaches the African Diaspora culture through dance, music, martial arts, etc.), for example, provided teachers with insight on how to give math and English an artistic twist through music and a Swahili/English ABC book called “Jambo Means Hello.”
I was thrilled to see over 200 hundred teachers from our six new schools (Burns, Global, Clark, Pre-K Magnet, Betances, and MGA at West Middle) participate in the 13 workshops that were available! And with the opportunity to join two workshops, I hope every teacher was able to leave the conference with numerous techniques to engage students and spark creativity.

The Arts Integration workshops were followed by what I can only describe as an Arts Provider Fair that made my visit to the carnival the week before less appealing. During this segment of the conference teachers were able to meet many of the artists that offer Arts Integration programs through Hartford Performs.

The days leading up to the event, I saw the XL Center’s lobby strictly as a place we had to somehow manage to fit 42 tables in. I must mention, previous to the Art Fair I visited the center only a few times for concerts, sports and the circus. So it was hard for me to imagine the hall as anything more than a place to purchase tickets.

Top: Bob Bloom & Doll E Daze
Bottom: Carol Glynn & Tom Hanford
Needless to say, I was completely in awe that Wednesday at the scene of teachers in search of the perfect program and beautiful displays from passionate artists. This festive meet-and-greet created for me the vision of a hopeful future for the 2013-2014 school year.

Speaking of the XL Center, I can’t forget to mention the complete layout of this year’s Arts Integration Conference Unlike in the past, the event took place in several well-known locations in Downtown Hartford. Attendees and Hartford Performs’ staff paraded anywhere from the Society Room to Sea Tea Improv Studios, the Old State House to the Hartford Stage Rehearsal Studios, or the Christ Church Cathedral Annex to Downtown Yoga. And by “paraded” I mean Hartford Performs’ staff frantically ran from building to building to guarantee that teachers were able to find the right site of their workshops.

At the end of the day, we had several teachers comment on how well organized the event was. I just remembering feeling grateful for their excitement and openness to this new structure. In addition to the teachers’ understanding, we were also able to maneuver so smoothly between buildings due to the staffs’ involvement and cooperation at each of the locations. Without them, I am not sure if we would have managed the day’s event without major complications.

Our appreciation also goes out to the 11 individuals who joined the Hartford Performs as temporary staff for the day. Thanks to them, we were able to have someone available every step of the way.

I must say, after several months of organizing the 4th Annual Arts Integration Conference and counting down the days until it happened, it is hard for me not to get excited recalling the event. But like I said, autumn is a time for change and I am proud to continue interning with Hartford Performs as we shift our attention to the 26 Hartford Performs schools!

At the beginning of September, we began the process of helping teachers choose programs for the school year. With a database filled with endless information to digest, we find it easier to meet face-to-face with teachers. I attended one of the meetings at E. B. Kennelly School and was amazed to see teachers, principals, and faculty members eager to book programs suitable to the needs and interests of their students. Many teachers came prepared with their top three choices. The school’s staff also worked together to discuss busing options and ideas for those programs that take place off of school grounds.

With only a few more schools to visit we are hoping that all 26 schools will have their programs within the next few weeks. We must express our gratitude for the Hartford Public Schools for their active participation in this process. It is a joy working with enthusiastic teachers and faculty members as we continue to expose Hartford Public Schools students to arts and engage them in a learning practice they will never forget!