Performance series at ASU Gammage connects rural communities to the arts

K–12 students will have the opportunity to experience three incredible performance groups this semester as part of The Molly Blank Fund Performances for Students series at ASU Gammage.

TAIKOPROJECT, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Pacifico Dance Company will livestream their performances on ASU Gammage’s YouTube channel March 29, April 22 and April 30, respectively.

The Molly Blank Fund Performances for Students has been around for over 20 years and typically holds performances at Gammage Auditorium. Along with providing students access to incredible artists from around the world, it allows teachers to incorporate these performing arts experiences into their daily curriculum.

The opportunity for virtual field trips comes at a time when many students are learning from home. Desiree Ong, educational enrichment program manager at ASU Gammage, said that for rural communities especially, these programs are necessary to provide access to the arts.

“We’re striving to reach more rural schools through this virtual format,” Ong said. “We have schools registered from Tucson, Case Grande, Young — schools that wouldn’t typically be able to drive out to Tempe for a performance.”

According to a report from the Arizona Department of Education, over 130,000 Arizona students have no access to the arts. While public schools represent 83% of the population, they represent 60% of the “no arts” student population, whereas charter schools represent 17% of the overall student population and hold 40% of the “no arts” students.

In a normal season, anywhere from 700 to 1,200 students would register for a specific performance. Moving the series to a virtual format has allowed for enrollment beyond what would have been allowed in-person. For example, as of Febr. 25, TAIKOPROJECT had over 2,000 student registrations for the digital performance.

For teachers, educational curriculum guides are provided as part of this program to help students learn about the arts by incorporating vocabulary into their daily lessons. Additionally, students experience a variety of cultures and learn the importance of specific art forms and the impact of the arts on the surrounding world. 

“I feel like when teachers go through the extra effort to plan a field trip, that their efforts pay off when the trip has a lasting impression on the kids,” Ong said. “I also hope they can take away some curricular ideas through our curriculum guide.”

By presenting a diverse array of performers, Ong said she hopes students take away having had exposure to new art forms and different cultures, as well as lasting memories of these arts experiences. To have students see artists onstage who look like them or challenge their preconceived notions is the ultimate win.

“Arts organizations are the second responders — we’re going to be thing that helps people heal in this pandemic,” Ong said. “We want to provide these joyful opportunities to students who have been through a very hard time and learning from home all year. We hope this virtual field trip will get them excited and provide them with something unique.”

Two out of the three performance groups will be performing live from ASU Gammage’s stage, and a live Q&A will follow each performance. All performances will begin at 10:30 a.m. and last one hour. 

To learn more about The Molly Blank Fund Performances for Students series and how to register visit the ASU Gammage website.

Alexis Alabado