A! Magazine for the Arts

Artist-in-Residence: Barter Theatre Partners with Abingdon High School

September 6, 2011

ABINGDON, Va. – An Artist-in-Residency program is beginning its second year at Abingdon High School (AHS) and is funded in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Barter Theatre.

Teachers from AHS will work together with Megan Atkinson, a Barter Theatre alum and the sponsored artist, to support and enhance the visual arts, music, theatre, poetry, fiction, speech and forensics curriculum already in place at Abingdon High.

"Improved academic performance after studying theatre arts as been confirmed in numerous studies," said Barter Theatre Director of Education Karen Sabo," and Barter is excited to have support of the VCA and ability to offer this program in Abingdon High School." The Artist-in-Residency program goal is for students to work with professional and qualified artists to develop the skills that will lead to improved academic performance in all subjects according to Sabo.

The principal of Abingdon High School, Chad Wallace, realizes the added value, as well. "The Artist-in-Residency program is greatly going to enhance an already strong program we have in place for our students."

Wallace added, "Our students have a tremendous amount of talent and helping to take their skills to this next level will benefit them, our town, and help them realize more fully their abilities to continue with arts in their post-secondary education and/or vocation. Last year, Barter's Wendy Piper afforded students various opportunities that they would have not received otherwise. I am looking forward to having a second opportunity to fill the Artist-in-Residency program with Ms. Atkinson."

AHS teacher and Artist-In-Resident Coordinator Pam Necessary said, "I believe students gained more confidence to speak up in front of their classmates, and the activities gave them a new perspective and better understanding of the literary selections. I also gained a few new tools to help students learn. We are all looking forward to the new year."

AHS student, Truman Hawks confirms the sentiment, " I learned so much and had a lot of fun. I feel I gained confidence, courage, and the ability to work better with peers."

"Barter Theatre has long expressed a deep and abiding commitment to the educational needs of the students of our region," stated Richard Rose, producing artistic director of Barter Theatre. "As such, and given the continuation of significant budget cuts, we are excited to partner with and provide services to the schools of our region."

Rose added, "The pilot Artist-in-Education Residency program last year was a true success on several levels, but most importantly, with the participating students. Barter Theatre is happy to continue this program and hopes to expand to other school systems over time. It is one part of Barter's planned expansion of its educational offerings to help the children of the region build skills that will be necessary to compete in the economy of tomorrow."

Many programs are now offered through Barter's Education Wing. Other programs include special selected student matinees, study guides aimed at fulfilling standards of learning for Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, and tours of the historic theatre.

"Megan Atkinson is a former Barter artist who is particularly familiar with our mission of enrichment and education. She personally has a mission of inclusiveness and encouraging voices from the underserved," said Sabo.

Atkinson is excited about the opportunity. "As the an artist-in-residency, I will use theatre to teach students the tools necessary to grow in each academic program that AHS offers, and I look forward to collaborating with each teacher to assess what individuals and the student body needs in order to succeed, not only in a school environment, but also in their daily lives," Atkinson said. "These are crucial skills to succeed in life."

"Taking on this position makes me feel humbled, honored, and thrilled! As an artist I feel it is a responsibility to serve our community, and what better way to do that then this."

For more information about the Artist-in-Education Residency, contact Karen Sabo, director of education at 276.619.3314 or education@bartertheatre.com.