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The Barter Blog

The Theatrics of a Great Education

September 15, 2016

Barter Theatre does more than just produce world-class theatre; we also have four unique education programs, which help students all around our region every day. In honor of National Arts Education Week, September 11-17, we want to acknowledge these programs and the amazing people who make them possible. With Project REAL, The Barter Players, Barter Youth Academy and our Student Matinee program, Barter Theatre offers programs to help many of the schools and homeschool organizations across Southwest Virginia and into East Tennessee.

Check out this article about the importance of the arts in education written by Barter Theatre’s Director of Education and Director of Project REAL, Megan Atkinson and the Associate Director of Barter Youth Academy Michael Gerber:

As students begin the school year, and we approach the fall in our community, it is important for us to remember the impact of education in our homes, schools and communities. For decades, research has shown that when students participate in the arts as a part of their education, they go on to succeed in school, work and life.

Designated by Congress in 2010, this week is National Arts in Education Week: a national celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education. We are celebrating here in Abingdon, Virginia and would encourage all supporters of arts, culture, and education to join Barter Theatre, and our elected officials and education leaders, to celebrate the impact of arts education.

Recently, in Washington, D.C., the new Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law—replacing No Child Left Behind. This new bill fully supports the arts as part of every student’s "well-rounded" education. It provides the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts. What we know is simple: students attend school more often when they have access to the arts; parents and families engage with schools that embrace the arts; dropout rates decrease; grades increase; and the halls of arts friendly schools are filled with artwork, songs, drama and dancing.

We have seen such success with Barter’s Project REAL (Reinforcing Education through Artistic Learning), which currently collaborates with 10 schools in the Southwest Virginia region. Project REAL uses theatre tools to teach all disciplines by connecting the curriculum to each student’s own human experiences. When asked about Project REAL, one superintendent said, “When the instruction results in student engagement, it means the students want to come to school, so it directly affects student attendance. When they come in, and they get engaged into something meaningful, something that derives real-life experiences for them, they will be coming to school.”

Barter Youth Academy (BYA) is a performance-based educational program that allows students of all ages the chance to learn and develop their performance and storytelling skills. Using the acting and rehearsing techniques of the Barter Resident Acting Company, students work through the theatre experience from the audition to the final performance onstage in front of a live audience. BYA provides a safe, positive environment to enhance the abilities for the beginning performer, as well as shaping the talents of the advanced youth actor.

BYA has expanded into four cities since 2011, offering classes in Abingdon, Virginia; Bristol, Tennessee; Elizabethton, Tennessee; and Kingsport, Tennessee. With a strong scholarship program, BYA reaches out to students who would otherwise be unable to afford this new and exciting theatre education. Local parents say:

“Thank you for having BYA in Kingsport! My daughter has blossomed with this program!!! I don't know what we would do without BYA!!! I can't wait to see what wonderful things happen in the fall.” – Kingsport Parent

“My child has learned so much about theater from her Barter Youth classes. As a person who is inexperienced in the arts, this is an interest of hers that I would not be able to nurture without Barter Theatre's help. I am so thankful for the BYA program.” – Bristol Parent

“It's more than a play, it's creativity, confidence and teamwork.” – Abingdon Parent

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, let’s pause to cheer on our educators and students. We hope you’ll join us in appreciating those teachers who bring the arts to our students. Recognize your students and children for their creative endeavors. More importantly, get together and create as a way to celebrate the human experience.