The places art can take you

Powel School taps community to round out students’ art education

(Photo Left) Dancers at the African Arts festival at Powell School. Photo by Luke Walker.

Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education regularly affirms this statement: “Every child should have access to a well-rounded education that includes the arts.”

No one would have to convince the folks over at Samuel Powel School of this: not its administration, not its teachers, not its parents and not its surrounding community. For the past 30 years, the school at 301 N. 36th St, in Powelton Village, has infused its curriculum with coordinated exploration of a particular region, culture or continent. The school didn’t have to look far for the expertise it needed to lead that exploration.

The school’s Spring Arts Festival featured works of visual art which resulted from six- to eight-week residencies by the University City Arts League in each classroom. The works were inspired by contemporary and historical arts from each country studied. This year’s studies focused on countries in West and North Africa.

“Fashion for Study” was conceived by professional model and parent Aliette Petite. She’s imparted lessons learned in her experiences from walking runways in New York and Los Angeles, as well as locally. For the festival, students donned original fashions by Maietta Moore of Semoner Designs.

Music was provided by Universal Dance & Drum Ensemble and the event was catered by Dilimandjaro & Youma Restaurants.

Jamila Moton and Jameel Hendricks, a mother-son team of dancer and choreographer —Hendricks is an alumnus — taught students dances from a variety of West African traditions. In their dazzling, gold and purple attire, the enthusiastic and visually delightful dancers performed at the festival. Students from the 1st and 3rd grades performed the Liberian welcome dance “Funga Alafiya,” while 3rd and 4th graders performed “Dun Dun Bah,” from New Guinea.

Mom and professional vocalist Gretchen Elise Walker, whose daughter Sonja was among the dancers, offered, “I think what my daughter and the other girls got out of this experience was the opportunity to feel excellence. The choreographers set the stage in a way that allowed them to shine, connect with each other, and be a team, all the while learning to respect the deep roots of the African cultures behind the dances they learned.”

The performing and learning won’t stop with the Spring Arts Festival. Hendricks plans to feature these girls again in a show of his work at Painted Bride.

In its study, “A Shared Endeavor,” Americans for the Arts writes, “It is the convergence of the contributions of all partners and opportunities that provides a quality arts education for our students.”

So, Powel has the right idea. Arts can take you far, and sometimes the path begins right in your backyard.


The places art can take you
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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