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Middle schoolers get pottery, dance, theater experience with Arts Encounter

Middle schoolers get pottery, dance, theater experience

Photos by Tyler Bennett Edison Middle School students Jaiden Vargas, left, and Chloe Daggett paint as part of the Artsbridge Arts Encounter program at Edison Middle School on Thursday.

PARKERSBURG — Unable to visit the Actors Guild of Parkersburg and the Parkersburg Art Center as in years past, Artsbridge brought those activities to the schools with the Arts Encounter program coming to Edison Middle School on Thursday.

In a partnership between Wood County Schools and Artsbridge, the program provides art instruction for middle school students.

Students were able to learn how to make pottery by MJ Lemon from Watering Can Art Studio. They also drew their own superheroes and set up a play with those characters in a theater workshop with Brent Null from the Actors Guild. They participated in a choreography dance workshop with Mid-Ohio Valley Ballet’s Suzy Gunter, according to Artsbridge Executive Director Amanda Stevens.

Normally the students would be transported to a central location in downtown Parkersburg for the Arts Encounter activities.

They would spend half a day at the Guild watching a show and getting a behind-the-scenes tour. Then students would eat lunch and spend the rest of the day at the art center making pottery and exploring the gallery.

With COVID-19 protocols not allowing large groups inside buildings, Stevens said the students needed an activity that involved the arts and that why she got in contact with every school in Wood County to see if there was any interest.

“We’re just happy it’s able to still happen. Because now more than ever, I really think kids need the arts. I think everyone’s hungry, to be involved, to be a part of something and to actually learn and do things because we’ve all been so isolated,” Stevens said. “Some of what went into the planning was reaching out to different arts presenters and see what they could possibly bring to each school and what days worked with them and the schools.”

Stevens did say that if COVID restrictions are lifted for next year, Artsbridge will consider whether to go back to the original plan, keep the current plan or come up with a hybrid model that involves aspects of both.

Edison art teacher Kelley Malson said she hopes to see more of the program having activities at the school, saying it’s more personal by having it in class.

“They decided to bring it to the schools this year and the kids have just loved it. It’s fantastic. So everything they would have done there, they’re now doing in class and what’s really great,” Malson said. “It actually feels a little more personal, I think, to have people here with just our kids rather than all of the kids from all the schools together in one place. So it’s nice to have that one-on-one attention from each presenter.”

Visiting Belpre Elementary School last week, Stevens said the program plans to visit Hamilton, Van Devender, Jackson, Blennerhassett and Belpre Middle schools.

“We couldn’t do this without the cooperation of the art teachers and without Ashlee Beatty at Wood County Schools, she is our art contact to the teachers and then Michael Erb with Wood County Schools has also been incredibly instrumental.”

Tyler Bennett can be reached at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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