Shaler students Attack performance art program
Shaler Area Elementary School students turned their works of visual art into performance art during a residency program with Attack Theatre.
Performers from the Pittsburgh-based dance theater came to the school to help Monica McElwain's sixth-grade art students find connections between types of art, and find inspiration to create art from unconventional places.
“We wanted them to be inspired by something — inspired to create artwork, inspired to create movement,” said Liz Chang, an Attack Theatre dancer who worked with the students this month. “We hoped to get them to come out of their comfort zone and think differently.”
In partnership with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Attack Theatre dancers complete residencies in school districts to engage young students. They worked with about 333 Shaler Area Elementary sixth-graders this semester.
McElwain asked students to look at photographs, words and phrases on which to base a work of visual art. Students then described those paintings or visual artworks with words and phrases that were used to create a dance.
“My art was blurry and rocky, so we moved rough,” said Bella James, a sixth-grader. “We were using our bodies to create the artwork. Sometimes, the most simple (movements) fit into dance.”
Rosie Piett, a sixth-grader, said she learned that dance is more than ballet steps.
“It can be weird and fun. You can do anything you want to do, movement,” Piett said. “It was fun and funny to see everybody doing it.”
Grants from the PPG Industries Foundation's Public Education Leadership Community grant program and Target Corp.'s Arts, Culture & Design Grant program, along with a partnership with Pennsylvania Council on the Arts' Arts in Education Division, Pittsburgh, funded the residency.
The Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts offers artist residency projects and matching money to schools, and Shaler Area partnered with Attack Theatre through the program.
The residency program and grants allowed Shaler Area Elementary School to host Attack Theatre's Random Accumulated Memories performance for the whole school this semester.
Students in McElwain's sixth-grade art classes worked with Attack Theatre dancers twice. A smaller group also attended a field trip this month at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
“It's important,” McElwain said. “I don't think a lot of them get to go out and have the exposure of multicultural arts. These are ways of getting their minds going.”
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.