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Former Hand Middle School principal named 2015 Arts Administrator of the Year

From ColaDaily.com Article by Kelly Petty

The folks at Hand Middle School takes art seriously. Just about every wall in the school is adorned with colorful murals and original artwork from the students. The sounds of a rehearsal, band practice or orchestra warm up can be heard in the halls. None of it would be possible without the efforts of the faculty and staff under the former principal Marisa Vickers. Vickers was acknowledged for her leadership in promoting the arts and arts education at the school with the 2015 Arts Administrator of the Year Award by the South Carolina Alliance for Arts Education. “I’m thrilled, absolutely honored and humbled by the award,” she said. “It’s truly a collaborative award based on the work of Hand Middle School. I worked with extraordinary, talented and visionary teachers in the arts and academics.” Vickers, who was promoted to serve as an executive director of schools for Richland School District One this year after serving as principal for 15 years, pushed for a comprehensive initiative to infuse arts in daily instruction at the Hand Middle. Vickers and the faculty and staff at the school found that they could create meaningful connections in the curriculum and build an interdisciplinary learning environment when art was incorporated into study. “We need to have those connections and approach children with different learning styles,” Vickers said. “The arts do a beautiful job of that.” The school offers orchestra, drama, chorus, dance, visual arts and band for students in sixth through eighth grade. Vickers said creative writing and video production was added to encompass all forms of the arts. Art also has become a tool for learning within the classroom for general subject courses. Sixth-grade students in drama who studied social studies and world history performed "The Odyssey" and other theatrical productions related to that time period, Vickers said. Those in drama who are bit shy to get on stage have an opportunity to learn stage production, including lighting, sound and set design through the technology team led by Hand Middle’s stage manager and orchestra teacher. Vickers said students apply for the program during the spring and are trained during the summer. Those students go on to manage and operate what happens behind-the-scenes of a performance, which helps them develop into leaders. “It’s motivational because children are actually involved. It’s not just what we’re performing on stage, it's all the facets,” Vicker said. “We discover strengths we did not know existed in our students.” Teachers are encouraged seek arts-related grants attend arts education conferences and collaborate on ideas to promote the success of the arts programs at Hand Middle. Vickers said the school gained exemplary on its report card because of the extensive arts curriculum. “We pulled on children's strengths and allowed children to showcase their works with alternative types of products that you don’t traditionally see in a classroom,” Vickers said. Hand Middle also extended their passion for the arts out into the community with a partnership between the city of Columbia and the school’s foundation to build an outdoor amphitheater at Emily Douglass Park. The venue has become a place to hold performances including Richland One’s jazz festival, as well as integrate into the existing park for the community to enjoy. “It’s important for students to have an audience for their work,” Vickers said. The teachers and staff at Hand Middle continue to make the arts and integral part of learning and have drawn on the lessons and leadership Vickers left. The teachers and staff at Hand Middle continue to make the arts and integral part of learning and have drawn on the lessons and leadership Vickers left. “I wanted to be the teacher that I didn’t have and that is why I use the arts,” said creative writing teacher Helen Schell. Schell said Vickers was a leader that gave teachers a chance to pursue new ideas to integrate art in the classroom, even allowing faculty-led classes to create learning experiences for other teachers to get them familiar with the arts. “Mrs. Vickers trusts her teachers,” said Kara Corley, dance teacher. “She knows we know our craft. She trusts that we are going to deliver it accurately and enthusiastically to the students.” Jennifer Simmons, Hand Middle’s theater teacher, nominated Vickers. She said Vickers represented the type of administrator that was an ardent, visible supporter of the arts, which created an environment to see students blossom. “Whenever we would go to her for an idea or project, she would always respond with ‘That’s a great idea. What can I do to help,” Simmons said. Vickers said receiving the award was unexpected because creating art does not come easy to her. “My art class in college was my most challenging,” she said. “It is not a natural strength of mine.” The experiences she had a Hand Middle, however, have continued to challenge her at the district level as she seeks to empower all students through learning. “Collaboration with all of our stakeholder groups, our teachers, students and community members--it will only make us stronger because our students are an investment,” she said. Image: The 2015 Arts Administrator of the Year Award recently was presented to  Marisa Vickers (center), who served as principal of Hand Middle School from 2001-2015 before she was promoted to serve as an executive director of Richland One schools. Pictured (left to right) with Vickers at the  award ceremony are Hand’s performing arts teachers Robert Arcovio (chorus), Kara Corley (dance), Jennifer Simmons (theatre) and Mary Lou Schweickert (band).

Paul Taylor Dance Company visit an “infusion of choreography, master classes, and performance”

Paul Taylor Dance Company dancers will offer master classes and lecture demonstrations to dance students at USC, as well as to students from area middle and high schools. [caption id="attachment_15656" align="alignright" width="150"]Paul Taylor Paul Taylor[/caption] The University of South Carolina dance program will host the internationally acclaimed Paul Taylor Dance Company for a one-night-only performance, Wednesday, October 22 at the Koger Center for the Arts. The performance is sponsored by the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences, the USC Department of Theatre and Dance and Richland One School District. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for 2nd Balcony seating, $35 for Grand Tier seating and $40 for Orchestra seating. Tickets can be reserved by calling (803) 777-5112 or by purchasing online at capitoltickets.com. One of the towering icons of modern dance, Paul Taylor has been a prominent dance artist since the mid 1950s and is considered by many to be America’s greatest living choreographer. Since its founding, Paul Taylor Dance Company has traveled the world, performing in 540 cities in 64 countries, reinforcing its historic role as one of the early touring companies of American modern dance. The New York Times has praised Paul Taylor Dance Company as “one of the most exciting, innovative, and delightful dance companies in the entire world.” The company’s Koger Center program will include performances of popular masterworks from the Paul Taylor repertoire, including Diggity, The Word, and Esplanade. “The dances we’re performing showcase the brilliance of Paul Taylor in a variety of dance styles and themes,” said John Tomlinson, executive director of the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. “These dances – a combination of classics and recent masterworks – are a marriage of some of the world’s greatest choreography – performed by some of the world’s finest dancers.” For USC Dance founder and Artistic Director Susan Anderson, the chance to bring the renowned company to the University stage was one she couldn’t pass up. She says she has been in love with the choreographer’s work since her early days as a dancer in Irvine, California. “I was one of those ‘bunhead’ ballerinas growing up,” Anderson says with a laugh. “When I first saw the company in the early 1970s in Los Angeles, it was the first time I’d seen modern dance and I absolutely fell in love with Paul Taylor’s style. He’s extremely inventive and creative -- he breaks all of the rules and regulations of ballet.” This visit to Columbia will bring more than just a dynamic performance to the Midlands. During their stay, PTDC dancers will offer master classes and lecture demonstrations to dance students at the University, as well as to students from area middle and high schools. For University dance majors, the Paul Taylor connection has informed much of the Fall semester’s studies, as they rehearse Taylor’s famous Company B with former PTDC dancer Cathy Buck. Company B is scheduled for performance during the USC Dance Company’s 20th Century Masterpieces concert, which will be performed at the Koger Center November 6 and 7. Current PTDC performers will be present for a public critique of the student’s progress on Company B on October 21 from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. in the USC Dance Studios at 324 Sumter St. The rehearsal and critique are open to the public. Study of the Paul Taylor canon will continue for majors in USC’s Dance Education track, who will be creating educational packets detailing Taylor’s distinctive style, which they will distribute to area schools. “Having this infusion of Paul Taylor choreography, master classes, lecture demonstrations and performances is an outstanding way for our students to become very familiar with this very influential style of dance,” said Anderson. “We are truly grateful to Dean Mary Anne Fitzpatrick from the College of Arts and Sciences for making this performance possible, and for her vision for the arts at USC to be an integral part of the community.” For more information about the PTDC Koger performance or the dance program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush, bushk@mailbox.sc.edu or (803) 777-9353. Via: University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance