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A guide to planning an arts festival.

A guide to planning an arts festival

VARIETY IS "THE SPICE OF LIFE," and the spice of art festivals, too. Our annual school arts festival at Stoner Hill Elementary Laboratory School in Shreveport, Louisiana offers exhibitions of art by every student in the school, hands-on art activities, demonstrations by professional artists, student musical performances, plays, puppet shows, balloon sculptures and crawfish races.

Initially, we began our arts festival to enhance the self-esteem of our students by showcasing their music and artwork, but our festival has grown over the years to also promote our school activities and enrichment programs, and to involve the students, parents, teachers and community of our school. With careful planning and an enthusiastic staff, your school can easily present a successful arts festival tailored to your needs.

The first steps in planning an arts festival should involve your entire staff in discussion, perhaps at a faculty meeting early in the school year. Coordination and major planning may fall to a committee of teachers, but all the teachers in the school need to be aware and involved so that they may plan activities for their particular classrooms.

A theme helps teachers to develop a focus in coordinating and planning activities. Themes we have used include "Countries of the World," "Louisiana" and "Our American Heritage." Such themes may be developed to fit your locality, school environment or programs, or other specific interests.

After a theme is chosen, teachers should incorporate it into their lessons and activities throughout the year. The festival should be scheduled for late spring, to allow time for practice of plays and puppet shows, and for collection of student artwork (labeled with the child's name, grade and classroom); to take advantage of good weather; and to present the culmination of the year's work for families and the community. We schedule our festival for a Sunday afternoon in April to give working parents an opportunity to attend, and to make use of the warm days of spring.

Our festival must be held predominantly outside, as our auditorium/cafeteria is small, but we have expanded to use all available areas of our school, both covered and open. An alternative plan for rain involves using classrooms for some activities. You will need to make plans according to your building and space facilities.

Much of the planning work involved can be done early. Local artists (recruited from parents whenever possible) can be invited to demonstrate or display their work during the festival, and hand-on activities may be planned and prepared for setup. Activities we have offered are always free to the children, and have included clay, stencilling, wire sculpture and various forms of printmaking. Parent volunteers should be enlisted for each activity and to help with other jobs, such as selling soda and popcorn, or with parking. Signs and nametags for volunteers and teachers can be prepared and decorated by students.

In the weeks before the festival, a schedule of activities should be drawn up, and performance times assigned for each class. Press releases should be prepared and distributed, along with other promotional materials such as posters, newsletters and invitations to parents and friends. For our Louisiana-themed festival last year, we hand delivered student-made paper crawfish to local newspapers and television stations. Our promotion paid off: the crawfish (sort of our state crustaceans) were shown on the television news and featured in the newspaper, and a photographer was sent to our school during the festival. Publicity is an important factor in enhancing the image of the school in the community, and helps promote attendance at your festival while also fostering pride in the student body.

In the week preceding the festival, all of the artwork can be hung. We are fortunate to have many wall-hung and free standing bulletin boards around our school, but we also tape work to walls, hang it from lines and suspend mobiles from the ceilings. Art covers our school by the last school day before the festival, a day in which all the classes rehearse their performances according to schedule.

The day of the festival, teachers, volunteers and a crew of students should arrive early to hang streamers and signs, set up tables and activities, and prepare for the expected crowd. As parents and children arrive and the festival begins, it soon becomes a whirlwind of color and noise, of smiling children, happy, camera-laden parents and joyful activity. Enjoy your success.
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:on the elementary school level
Author:Reynold, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 1989
Words:736
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