Letter: Arts vital for community

Dear Editor,

Thank you to the Citizen of East Alabama for the wonderful spread of articles that your paper ran just prior to the First Annual Festival of the Arts presented by our Phenix City Schools on Feb. 1, 2020. Your cover and several pages following featured many of our student arts classes and organizations, student leaders and faculty. In my forty years of community engagement, I have rarely seen such constructive and in-depth coverage of fine arts in public schools. 

Your articles included or mentioned all of our performing arts programs in PCIS, South Girard School, CFA, and Central High School. We are fortunate to have bands, choirs, theater ensembles, visual arts, and culinary arts instruction in our upper grades. Many of these begin in South Girard and PCIS. Our Elementary schools have rotating monthly schedules in music education and visual arts. These are only introductory and deserving of broader funding and participation. Visual arts were presented from every age group in our schools. 

All of these and every aspect of our Fine Arts curriculum was on display at the Festival of the Arts hosted at Central High School. The cafetorium and auditorium were filled to capacity as crowds gathered to observe and support the arts and the work of our children in their schools. Visiting event planners estimated that 2000 unique individuals passed through the doors that afternoon. Your proactive collaboration, including CTV Beam, was a significant contribution to engaging our community.  The original vision and hardest workers for the festival were our part-time instructors, after-school sponsors, middle school, and high school fine arts faculty. The core of this project was an investment in their students above and beyond any requirement of their jobs. Thank you Dempsey, Wells, Kroehling, Baxley, Thomas, Stone, Chrisman, Garmon and leadership from Wilkes, Tally, Sasser and many others. The level of your leadership is the foundation for our success. 

The gift of an attentive and sincerely interested audience is the first and best encouragement that our community can give. Our students deserve our support. Any community, in general, is enhanced by attending such special events and seasonal opportunities as the SGS Black History program in the morning of Feb. 27, CHS Theater Encore Productions program presented March 13-15. The Central High School Band concert is April 21. South Girard and PCIS join forces on April 30. See your school calendar and PCBOE.net for more information. 

These events are an extended learning experiences for our students and our community. When the community is present, it is important to respect the art and the hard work that most of the students have invested to be on stage. They have practiced, developed and learned a particular activity after hours over several weeks. Each of these pieces, students and audience members deserve respect for the time, study and caring invested required to progress and succeed. It is important to their overall success that we recognize and minimize the disruption of talking on a phone or to a neighbor in the audience or spontaneous entrance or exits during a performance. These concerts are different from civic center or open-air events with predominately amplified sound. In-door school event with band, choir or acting are mostly natural sound that require carefully listening. Appropriate concert conduct is mindful and considerate of every performer and listener. 

Please allow me this opportunity to ask that we consider others and the students above our distracted interests. Turn the volume down or the phone off before you enter. Otherwise, they will ring. If nothing else, the arts provide us all with the perfect opportunity to escape the outside world for an hour and appreciate the effort that has been invested. By doing so, you will encourage our students and community to be our best. 

The arts are a vital part of building well-balanced students, schools and progressing community. Community sponsors are particularly important to fine arts programs. Our Fine Arts Community Stakeholders partnered with our PCS leadership and faculty for the First Annual Fine Arts Festival on Feb. 1 to highlight our students and encourage the public to attend our local school fine arts events. I am profoundly grateful and still overwhelmed by our overall attendance of approximately 2000. Westrock was our first and lead sponsor. Many thanks to each of them and this paper. May this effort continue as we promote attendance in a variety of arts events this Spring. Let us all be more supportive and encouraging partners for the arts in our schools. 

Respectfully yours,

Steve Pace, Chair PCS Fine Arts Community Stakeholders