April 27th & 28th are the dates and Hoyt Sherman is the Place for Project STAGE (Students, Teachers, Artists: Generating Excellence), a joint DMPS and HSP production that promises to be a cavalcade of artistry ranging from photography to musical theater.

Last spring, the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation secured a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and reached out to the school district’s Turnaround Arts (TA) schools as partners on a visual and performing arts festival.

The result will be an event that HSP is uniquely equipped to host. A richly historic venue, the onetime family home of its namesake, who was a founding father of Des Moines, later added an art gallery and a theater to its Sherman Hill premises.

The gallery will be the site for an exhibition of elementary and middle school student photos about life on the Northside, created in collaboration with TA partner artist Adrian Walker, student mentors from the high school Urban Leadership program at Central Campus, and DMPS photographer Jon Lemons and Communications Director Phil Roeder. On Wednesday of this week, the first in a series of photography workshops was held with Lemons in the role of teacher. Each workshop will focus on a different aspect of photography, such as portraits, candids, and street photography. Students are provided with a disposable film camera after each session to then go out and create their own images, the favorites of which will be shared at the exhibit

Musicals produced by the Northside feeder schools will stage in the theater space on Friday, April 27. Variety acts on Saturday, April 28 will include spoken word poetry, dance and bands.

Besides all of the student art on display, DMPS teachers are expected to perform and so are one or more of the district’s other TA partner artists, which include Kal Penn, John Lloyd Young and Silk Road Ensemble. Those details are still being developed, as are which portions of the event will feature free admission and which will be ticketed. Details will be announced as soon as confirmed

“We are so excited to be getting underway with the inaugural year of Project STAGE,” said Robert Warren, the Executive Director of Hoyt Sherman Place. “My staff and I look forward to inspiring all of the students, teachers, artist and parents with the theater and gallery events.”

The feeling of excitement is mutual.

“Things are progressing very well,” said Ben Heinen, the district’s Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator. “Hoyt Sherman has been a fantastic and supportive partner, our TA schools have begun rehearsing their musicals, and we are working on booking Turnaround Artists, student groups, and teacher performers for the event on Saturday the 28th.”

Earlier this year, student-artists from Findley Elementary, the district’s pilot Turnaround Arts school that blazed a trail for the rest of the Northside feeder pattern, were featured in an exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center. Now the arts integration that is fueling improved student achievement across the curriculum is about to go on full display at a venue that established the first public art museum in the city more than a century ago, around the same time as area school districts consolidated into the Des Moines Public Schools.

“We have Harding students participating in the photography exhibit,” said Cassie Kendzora, the school’s Arts Integration Specialist. “Harding will also bring our production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr. We intend to invite student clubs such as Jazz Band, Harding Breakerz, Ukulele Club and Movement 515 poets to perform as part of the student showcase and our arts specialists and teachers to perform with their community organizations or ensembles in the adult showcase. Finally, we have teacher leaders on the Harding Creative Council who will be presenting on their use of arts integration in the classroom during the professional development workshops on Saturday April 28th.”

Stay tuned for more details on the many-splendored weekend coming next spring, aka Project STAGE. For now, save those dates: April 27-28.

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