Local nonprofit seeks to bring culture to kids that need it most


Jose Cardenas: I APPRECIATE YOU TALKING ABOUT MATTERS OF INTEREST. YOU ARE WATCHING HORIZONTE. NEXT, CHILDREN AND ARTS ORGANIZATION.

Jose Cardenas: NATIONAL ARTS IN EDUCATION WEEK CELEBRATES THE POWER OF ARTS IN EDUCATION. ACT ONE PROVIDES CHILDREN AND FAMILIES THE CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE THE ARTS THROUGH FIELD TRIPS AND CULTURE PASSES. JOINING ME NOW IS GERI WRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR ACT ONE. AND ALEXIS WILSON, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT FOR ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES FOR THE BALSZ SCHOOL DISTRICT.

Jose Cardenas: THANK YOU FOR WATCHING. FOR ARIZONA PBS AND HORIZONTE, TELL US THE HISTORY OF ACT 1. HOW DID IT GET STARTED?

Geri Wright: WE ARE SIX YEARS OLD AND OUR FOUNDERS BELIEVED THAT ART WAS IMPORTANT TO THEIR EDUCATION GROWING UP. THEY WENT TO FIELD TRIPS AND EXPERIENCING THE ARTS. THEY DECIDED TO SPONSOR A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS TO GO TO A THEATER PRODUCTION AND PAY FOR EVERYTHING FOR THE STUDENTS TO GO. THEY ACTUALLY WENT WITH THE STUDENTS AND REALIZED DURING AND AFTER THE PRODUCTION AFTER TALKING TO THE STUDENTS THAT THEY HAD NEVER BEEN INSIDE A THEATER OR SEEN A LIVE PERFORMANCE AND DECIDED THAT, THAT WAS WRONG AND SOMETHING NEEDED TO BE DONE ABOUT IT. THEY FOUNDED ACT 1.

Jose Cardenas: WE MENTIONED WHAT ACT 1 FOCUSES ON IS FIELD TRIPS AND CULTURE PASSES AND A FOCUS ON TITLE ONE SCHOOLS?

Geri Wright: IT IS. ACT ONE PROVIDES ACCESS TO THE ARTS. WE DO IT WITH THE FIELD TRIP PROGRAM THAT FOCUSES ONLY ON TITLE ONE SCHOOLS. WE PAY FOR THE TRANSPORTATION, THE TEACHING GUIDES AND WHEN FUNDS ALLOW, BOOKS FOR THE CLASSROOM. THE SECOND PROGRAM IS CULTURE PASS PROGRAM WITH PIMA COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEMS. IF YOU HAVE A LIBRARY CARD, YOU CAN GO IN THROUGH THE KIOSK AND CHECK OUT ONE OF 61 ART PARTNERS WE HAVE.

Jose Cardenas: WE SHOULD EXPLAIN WHAT A TITLE 1 SCHOOL IS?

Alexis Wilson: TITLE ONE MEANS THE MAJORITY OF STUDENTS QUALIFY FOR FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH. A FAMILY OF FOUR LIVING AT $24,000 A YEAR OR LESS QUALIFIES FOR FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH. DISTRICTS THAT ACT ONE SERVES ARE BETWEEN 70% UP TO 100% FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH.

Jose Cardenas: FUNDING FOR THE ARTS IN SCHOOLS HAS BEEN AN ISSUE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AS BUDGETS HAVE BEEN CUT, THE ARTS PROGRAMS SEEM TO BE THE FIRST THING TO GO.

Alexis Wilson: IT'S TRUE. THE SERVICES THAT ACT 1 CAN PROVIDE, TYPICALLY SCHOOLS PAY FOR FIELD TRIPS WITH TAX CREDIT DONATIONS. TITLE ONE SCHOOLS HAVE A HARDER TIME RAISING THE FUNDS. ACT 1 PROVIDES A GREAT SERVICE IN THAT THEY ALLOW TITLE ONE SCHOOLS TO TAKE PART IN THE ARTS AND ENHANCE THE EDUCATION.

Jose Cardenas: I TAKE IT, JERRY, THAT WE HAVE WHAT YOU CALLED BEFORE AN EQUITY CAP. WHILE THE CUTS MAY EFFECT ALL SCHOOLS, THEY HAVE A GREATER IMPACT ON THE TITLE 1 POPULATION.

Geri Wright: THAT'S RIGHT. ACT 1 DON'T HAVE THE ROBUST EDUCATION AS THEIR PEERS. IT'S JUST A FACT. AT RISK STUDENTS ARE EXPOSED TO THE ARTS CONSISTENTLY, THEY ARE MORE ENGAGED IN CLASS. THEY HAVE, YOU KNOW, THEY TEND TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL AT HIGHER RATES, AND THEIR ATTENDANCE RATE GOES UP. ARTS AND EDUCATION, IT'S PART OF A HOLISTIC EDUCATION. IT SHOULD BE EVERY STUDENT'S RIGHT TO HAVE THAT.

Jose Cardenas: AS I UNDERSTAND IT, ONE OF THE ISSUES YOU ENCOUNTERED INITIALLY, THE ISSUE OF TRANSPORTING KIDS. BASICALLY, YOU PROVIDE THE BUS.

Alexis Wilson: WE DO. I WISH WE PROVIDED THE BUS. I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE A BUS COMPANY, BUT WE DON'T. THAT WOULD MAKE THINGS EASIER.

Jose Cardenas: YOU HELP WITH TRANSPORTATION?

Geri Wright: WE ABSOLUTELY DO. TEACHERS, THERE IS NO BUDGET LINE FOR TRANSPORTATION. EVEN IF THE TEACHERS WERE ABLE TO GET FREE TICKETS TO THE ART ORGANIZATION, WE COULDN'T GET THE STUDENTS THERE, SO WE PAY FOR TRANSPORTATION A DISTRICT BUS OR WE HAVE USED PRIVATE BUSING, MEANING THE STUDENTS WILL GET THERE.

Jose Cardenas: ALEXUS, GETTING THERE IS PART OF THE FUN FOR THE KIDS, RIGHT? IT'S NOT JUST ONCE THEY GET TO THE EVENT, BUT GETTING ON THE BUS TO GO TO A DIFFERENT PART OF TOWN.

Alexis Wilson: YES. WHEN I WAS A TEACHER, I REMEMBER TAKING MY STUDENTS ON A FIELD TRIP AND PREPARING FOR HOW TO BEHAVE IN A THEATER AND ALL OF THE THINGS AS ADULTS WE ARE EXPECTED TO DO IN THE THEATER. THE TRIP ALONE, WE WERE HEADING 202 WEST ON THE 10 TO HEAD DOWNTOWN. ONCE WE GOT ON THE TOP PART OF THE RAMP, STUDENTS WERE ABLE TO SEE OFFICE BUILDINGS THEY HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE. A LOT OF TIMES STUDENTS IN TITLE ONE SCHOOLS, THEIR ONLY EXPERIENCE IS IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD. THAT ALONE WAS A HUGE WOW FOR THEM. TO BE IN THE THEATER AFTER THAT, AND TO EXPERIENCE MUSIC WAS JUST A PHENOMENAL EXPERIENCE.

Jose Cardenas: WE HAVE PICTURES, WHILE WE WERE TALKING, STUDENTS ENJOYING THESE EXPERIENCES THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN

Geri Wright: IT REALLY, I LIKE TO DESCRIBE IT AS -- IT'S NOT JUST THE ART FORM. IT'S NOT JUST THE WOW, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT THEATER EXISTED. I HAVE NEVER BEEN INSIDE A THEATER. I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD GET PAID TO DANCE. I DIDN'T KNOW PEOPLE PLAYED VIOLIN. I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT. IT'S NOT JUST THE ART FORM. IT'S THE LIFE EXPERIENCE. IT'S THE EXPOSURE. WE ALL REMEMBER OUR FIRST FIELD TRIP. I DO. A LOT OF US DO.

Jose Cardenas: I GREW UP IN NEVADA. SEEMED LIKE ALL OF OUR FIELD TRIPS WERE TO HOOVER DAM. IT WAS FUN.

Geri Wright: IT'S NOT ONLY THE ART FORM, BUT THE LIFE EXPERIENCE AND THE SHARED EXPERIENCE THE TEACHER CAN USE IN THE CLASSROOM.

Jose Cardenas: WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF THE TEACHERS?

Alexis Wilson: I THINK THE TEACHERS ENJOY IT AND MORE THAN THAT THE STUDENTS DO. ACT 1 HELPS THE TEACHER PREPARE FOR WHATEVER THE ART EXPERIENCE IS GOING TO BE. IT'S AN ADDITIONAL EDUCATION PIECE, NOT SEPARATE FROM WHAT THEY ARE DOING IN THE CLASSROOM.

Jose Cardenas: WE MENTIONED THIS IS NATIONAL ARTS AND EDUCATION WEEK. TELL US ABOUT THE ART EDUCATION WEEK?

Geri Wright: IT'S A NATIONAL CELEBRATION OF ARTS AND EDUCATION, JUST WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE. ACT 1 HAS DECIDED TO EMBRACE THAT. THIS WEEK, ALL THIS WEEK, THERE ARE SEVERAL RETAILORS IN THE COMMUNITY DOING ROUND UP CAMPAIGNS FOR ART AND EDUCATION. WE WANT PEOPLE TO GO TO THE WEBSITE AND SIGN UP AND VOICE THEIR SUPPORT FOR ARTS AND EDUCATION SO WE CAN ROLL IT OUT TO THE POWERS THAT BE AND SAY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ARIZONANS. IT'S AN AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.

Jose Cardenas: HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU TOUCH WITH YOUR TWO PROGRAMS?

Geri Wright: RIGHT. THIS YEAR WE HAD AN INCREDIBLE RESPONSE TO OUR PROGRAMS. ANNUALLY, IT'S TYPICALLY 25,000. THIS YEAR, WE OPENED OUR PROGRAM AUGUST 7TH, AND FOR REGISTRATION AND WE HAVE 48,000 SEAT REQUESTS. WE HAVE HIT THE TIPPING POINT. THE DEMAND IS LARGER THAN THE CAPACITY AT THIS POINT. WE ARE A NONPROFIT. WE RELY ON DONATIONS. WE HAVE TO PEDAL FAST TO SEND MORE KIDS ON FIELD TRIPS.

Jose Cardenas: ALEXIS, WE ARE JUST ABOUT OUT OF TIME BUT I UNDERSTAND ONE OF THE THINGS IS A TEACHING GUIDE?

Alexis Wilson: DEPENDING ON WHERE THE FIELD TRIP IS TO, THE ORGANIZATION CAN PROVIDE MATERIALS FOR THE TEACHER.

Jose Cardenas: SO IT'S ARTS AND EDUCATION.

Alexis Wilson: ABSOLUTELY. CONNECTED TO THE STANDARDS. THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT ACT 1. GOOD LUCK. THANK YOU FOR WATCHING. FOR ARIZONA PBS AND HORIZONTE, I'M JOSE CARDENAS HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

National Arts in Education Week begins Sept. 10 this year, and Act One wants to help people celebrate.

National Arts in Education Week began in 2010 as an effort “to tell the story of the impact of the transformative power of the arts in education.” Act One, a local nonprofit dedicated to bringing meaningful artistic opportunities to students, uses this week to offer museum field trips and culture passes to families that might otherwise be unable to experience the arts.

Geri Wright, executive director for Act One, says it is not just about the art form, but an opportunity to be part of a bigger experience. According to Wright, some children did not know dancing could become a profession until they saw dancers perform.

For some students, says Wright, it is a week of adventure. And for students who have never left their neighborhoods, it has the potential to be a life-changing experience.

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