When Virginia schools were shut down in March for the rest of the school year, Arts for Learning had a dilemma—as a nonprofit that delivers its services to hundreds of schools in Virginia, how do we fulfill our mission to engage students IN and THROUGH the arts? And how do we pay artists on our roster who suddenly have no income, when we as an organization are ourselves facing a profound financial crisis?
The answer didn’t come immediately. Our program team deliberated and debated, reached out to artists and educators, and consulted with other Young Audience, Arts for Learning affiliates around the country. But amid all the uncertainty, Chief Operations Officer Anna Green says the A4L staff was certain of two things:
“The power of arts to enrich the lives of children in good times and in bad and the importance of compensating the artists who do so,” Green says. “So that’s what Take 10 became—a way to reach the students and a way to compensate the artists that enrich their lives.”
Launched on March 24, Take 10 is Arts for Learning’s new digital programming, making arts learning accessible to children and families virtually through live and recorded performances.
“I think that what excites me the most is that we have such a variety of talent,” says Aaron Kirkpatrick, A4L’s Artistic and Education Manager. “Take 10 is not a program of music. It’s not about storytelling. It’s not about visual art. It’s all of those things. So if you were to go to our on-demand list, which is growing every day, there’s a little of something for everybody, and it really speaks to the diversity of talent of everybody on the roster.”
Getting Take 10 up and running had its challenges. Although all of our artists are accustomed to performing live in front of audiences, few had experience recording on video or in teaching compact ten-minute learning segments. It was new territory, too, for Arts for Learning. Through some trial and error and a determination to figure it out, the program team dove in. Kirkpatrick made his Canon T3i videocamera available, and he and Program Relationship Coordinator Aisha Noel worked together to develop new methods for formalizing production techniques, establishing quality control and devising camera ready lesson plans, all while following social distancing protocols.
Participating artists are paid fees for time spent recording their Take 10 segments. Since A4L doesn’t have a production studio, artists record their segments at our office space in Norfolk, performing in front of a mural painted by artist Charles Williams in 1986.
Musician Tina Culver, the lead artist of the Strings Impact program and a public school teacher in Portsmouth, had to figure out how to teach the violin on video. With some help from the Pink Panther theme, she produced a Facebook Live segment that was fun to watch whether you had a violin handy or not.
“I think it’s really cool to be a part of it,” Culver says. “We’re impacting kids from a different perspective now, social media. Now we’re getting more people that are looking at it, you never know where it’s going, who it’s reaching. So I’m just glad to be a part of that. It’s just another way to reach everyone.”
The Take 10 programming is being shared widely, including by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Partnership for Out-of-School Time. We’ve also received requests for original digital programming from library systems and school districts in Virginia. Green sees this difficult time as an opportunity. “There’s the excitement of the possibility of being able to reach students better statewide through digital means. There’s a unique opportunity for people to see a nonprofit taking a step into a place that they’ve never been before.”
“I’m loving the #Take10 initiative and we’ll definitely be directing folks to those videos!” Christine Hurlock, Youth Services Librarian for Williamsburg Regional Library
Sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on everything that’s happening at A4L as we work to bring new programming to your family!