By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Close to 70 seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Albert the Great School saw William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” come to life during a performance in their school’s gymnasium March 8.
The performance, by Kentucky Shakespeare, was made possible through a grant awarded to St. Albert the Great by the Fund for the Arts.
Lucy Geerer — a seventh-grade teacher at St. Albert the Great who applied for the grant — said she has been teaching “Romeo and Juliet” for years. She’s always amazed at the way students connect with the Shakespearean tragedy, written more than 400 years ago, she said.
The theme, she noted, provides opportunities to discuss the importance of forgiveness and good decision making. To have Kentucky Shakespeare perform it at the school was a great experience for students, she said. “This was an incredible opportunity to bring the stage to the classroom.”
The Fund for the Arts raises money from local individuals and businesses and awards grants to schools and community organizations so they can provide art experiences.
The grant that brought Kentucky Shakespeare to St. Albert was sponsored by Delta Dental of Kentucky’s charitable initiative called Making Smiles Happen.
In its 67-year history, the Fund for the Arts has worked closely with organizations, including the Archdiocese of Louisville, to both raise funds and provide grants.
The archdiocese’s partnership with the Fund for the Arts began about seven years ago, said Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese.
The archdiocese donates money to the Fund for the Arts and the fund provides grants to Catholic schools, which give students greater access to the local arts community, Reynolds said.
“We need to connect with the wonderful opportunities in the community,” said Reynolds. “This is an example of the positive results that come from doing that.”
Eric Gurevich, communications and engagement manager at the Fund for the Arts, said incorporating the arts into education “does wonders for students.”
Gurevich said teachers in the Archdiocese of Louisville applied for about $25,000 worth of grants this school year. Ten grants were awarded to a total of nine schools (St. Nicholas Academy received two grants). The grants were awarded to classes ranging from third through 12th grade. The grants cover a wide variety of arts experiences, Gurevich said.
For example, students have participated in Actors’ Theatre’s New Voices playwright program and a Louisville Visual Arts Association program, where students learn about endangered species while making wood sculptures.
“These programs do a fantastic job of marrying core content with the enrichment value of art,” said Gurevich. He noted the Fund for the Arts hopes to be able to double the number of grants awarded to schools in the archdiocese next year.
Gurevich added that arts education nurtures four skills — creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. “The arts are able to drive home 21-century skills students need,” said Gurevich.
Kat Abner, impact officer at the Fund for the Arts, said students who are exposed to arts are “more likely to be engaged” in school, but added that arts in education goes beyond the classroom. Abner said that students who are active in arts programs are more likely to volunteer and feel connected to their community.
Reynolds agreed, adding, “Catholic education concerns itself with the total person. This was the intention of the partnership with the Fund for the Arts, to make sure we are educating the total person.”
Reynolds compared arts in education to Catholic schools’ “robust” sports programs, which at the end of the day teach kids about “healthy team work and good competition.”
“It keeps them engaged in the community. It supports the educational mission,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds and Gurevich said they look forward to the partnership growing in the future.
“We are very grateful to have such a strong partnership,” said Gurevich. “It shows the commitment the archdiocese has not only to education, but to the arts in education. That’s meaningful for us.”
There are 20 art programs from which teachers can choose. Once they’ve chosen the art program which best suits their classroom’s need, they apply for a grant to make it happen. When the educator is notified that they’ve been awarded the grant, the Fund for the Arts gets them connected to the organization that will
provide the arts experience. For more information, visit fundforthearts.org.