Compton-Drew students step into new world

The lights dimmed. A lilting melody drifted out over the audience, and a spotlight illuminated the silhouettes of dancers as they glided on stage. The students filling the seats of Edison Theatre held their breath for a moment as they witnessed something far outside their cultural norm.

On Friday, October 24, students from Compton-Drew Middle School, along with several other local schools, watched in wonder as the Arabesque dance company from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam performed The Mist.

Washington University in St. Louis has a long-standing relationship with surrounding schools, inviting them to take part in the various cultural and artistic presentations happening on campus. Through an initiative known as K-12 Connections, the university pairs local schools seeking enrichment activities with professors, volunteers and programming to meet each school’s need.

The Institute for School Partnership’s Chris Mohr explains that as the coordinator for K-12 Connections, it is her job to work with individuals throughout the university to ensure that students have the most meaningful and enriching experience possible. For this trip and many like it, the Edison Theatre underwrites many free tickets and bus costs for the students attending their performances in the Ovation series, and the Kemper generously welcomes student groups and educators to view their galleries. Without the support and concerted effort of these different departments, experiences such as this one would not be possible.

A student from Compton-Drew Middle School explains his interpretation of a piece hanging at the Kemper Art Museum on Washington University’s Danforth campus.

“Many of the student groups we invite for K-12 Arts Integration trips are in underserved communities and would not be able to otherwise experience a live arts performance,” Mohr said. “Besides the creative spark they may ignite, these opportunities can expand students’ understanding of themselves and others in the world.”

In addition to Arabesque’s performance, K-12 Connections coordinated another artistic experience for Compton-Drew students at the Kemper Art Museum. Compton-Drew art teacher Judy Gregorc stated that the experience helped students become more visually literate. “Today, children are being raised as visual learners, with cell phones and other technology,” Gregorc said. “Visual literacy is important.”

After the tour, Kemper employees had a small surprise for their visitors. Each student took home posters of a piece of art currently hanging in the gallery.

One student said that as soon as he got home, he wanted to hang up his new artwork, making this field trip one that he would not soon forget.