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Art Students Use Their Talents to Give to Community

From Dance to Film, ArtsBridge Program Provides Creative Outreach to Local Schools

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted December 1, 1999

Each fall, the talent of Berkeley High School students is showcased in theater productions, art exhibits, music concerts and team sports. But for students who make films and videos, no venue exists.

"We want a way to express our abilities too," said Walker Koppelman-Brown, a budding filmmaker and junior at Berkeley High.

Koppelman-Brown and his fellow film enthusiasts are getting their wish, thanks to the help of two UC Berkeley students, who created an eight-week course to teach the teenagers how to curate their own film festival.

Meeting with the high school students once a week, Maria Chavez, a senior majoring in journalism, film and mass communication, and Alesandra Dubin, a senior majoring in film and English, share their knowledge of organizing film festivals. They are assisted by Pacific Film Archive curator Kathy Geritz.

"We talk with them about things like publicity, criteria for selecting films, writing acceptance and rejection letters and logistics," said Dubin. "We also discuss how to view a film from a curatorial point of view and the importance of placement and ordering of the films in the festival."

"Who knows, we may have a future Steven Spielberg out there," said Chavez. "We'd hate to have that person get discouraged and quit because they have no outlet for their art."

The semester of classes culminates Dec. 17, with the presentation of the first-ever Berkeley High Film Festival.

This unique workshop was made possible by ArtsBridge, the outreach component of Berkeley's Arts Consortium.

Chavez and Dubin are two of 37 ArtsBridge Scholars, selected from more than 60 applicants, who each received $1,200 to create art-related courses for students and teachers in low-performing K-12 schools this fall. Applications for 45 spring semester slots are currently under review.

To be considered as scholars, students must be majoring or minoring in an arts program on campus. Disciplines such as drawing and painting, dance, music, film, creative writing, art history and photography.

Students applying for the scholarship must create an intensive program that develops awareness or facility in the arts or uses the arts to support other academic disciplines.

Once selected, scholars are assigned to faculty advisers who help develop the curriculum for the workshop. The scholars are then matched with teachers at host schools selected for participation in the ArtsBridge program.

Teacher and scholar work in tandem to organize the workshop. The goal is to transfer the skills and lesson plans the scholar has developed to the teacher so he or she can incorporate them into future classes.

Bess Petty, a junior art practice major, is helping 6th graders at Longfellow Arts and Technology Middle School combine visual art, creative writing and literacy in her workshop.

While one group of kids travels to a local preschool to read stories aloud to the children, others are in the classroom writing, illustrating and binding giant story books that they will present to the preschoolers at the end of the semester, said Petty.

"The preschoolers absolutely worship the big kids, which makes those 6th graders who don't feel great about themselves academically feel important and mature," said Petty. "Even those who have poor reading skills can hold a young audience captive by reading a simple story book."

Because of her experience at Longfellow, Petty is now considering a teaching career.

"These students have an artistic gift that they've had the opportunity to develop here at Berkeley," said Craig Nagasawa, acting director of Berkeley's ArtsBridge program. "They want to use their talent to give back to the community in some way."

Unfortunately, said Nagasawa, there are more schools seeking participation than available scholars. Their need stems in part from budget shortages that force schools to cut or eliminate art programs.

"Because the educational benefits of art are difficult to quantify, these programs are particularly vulnerable," he said. "But art can help any kind of learning. It involves processes that are common to many other creative pursuits, such as math and science."

And for kids who have trouble understanding certain concepts through more traditional methods, said Nagasawa, presenting the material using art can greatly improve their comprehension.

"Some students may not 'get it' through reading or listening to the teacher," he said. "Using a creative visual or audio presentation of material can sometimes make all the difference."



December 1, 1999 - January 11, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 16)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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