SchoolArts Magazine

December 2015

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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PAGE SPONSORED BY: I t's a cold and snowy night in December, yet children and com- munity members are gathering in the streets of Waterbury, Ver- mont. People chatter excitedly while they await the beginning of what has become one of the calendar highlights in Central Vermont—the annual River of Light Lantern Parade. Handmade lanterns of every size and shape are sprinkled throughout the dark streets as far as the eye can see. These are simple yet beautiful structures, made from sustainable materials such as willow wood and coffee-filter paper, lit by battery- operated LED lights and held aloft on bamboo poles. Samba beats signal the start of the parade as people make their way through Waterbury to the culminat- ing meeting point, where hot choco- late and bonfires await them. The sense of joy is palpable. From School Project to Tradition What began as a school project in 2010 has now become a yearly tradi- tion embraced by the community. Students from pre-K to grade four create age-appropriate lantern struc- tures, learning about 3D design, use of materials, construction, and social engagement. Community Lantern-Making What makes this project so successful is the unique experience of collec- tive art-making. There is power in creating a piece of something that is part of a whole. Grants fund a series of free lantern-making workshops in surrounding communities to make lanterns for the event. This year, three workshops in rudimentary lantern-making are available for the public to attend. Also available is a free two-day lantern workshop—an intensive weekend-long event that equips artists with the skills to teach lantern-making within their own communities. A Joyous Impact Hosting an event like the River of Light has a tremendous impact within a community. The workshop program and final celebratory event provide a forum of participation for people of all ages and backgrounds. Working with children and young people—both within schools and in the commu- nity—supports creative talent from an early age, creating a generation of arts advocates, and setting a foundation where art is both present and valu- able. Joy is at the heart of the procession and participants have an emotional connection with the event after creat- ing something simple and functional, bringing it out to the streets, and helping to bring light to the commu- nity. There is a tremendous sense of empowerment for young people when they can contribute to and experience a multisensory, outdoor art event in a safe, supported environment. It fos- ters a sense of civic pride. MK Monley is the art teacher at Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury, Ver- mont. Gowri Savoor is a teaching artist who collaborated with the school. W E B L I N K ariveroflightinwaterbury.wordpress. com MK Monley and Gowri Savoor What makes this project so successful is the unique experience of collective art-making. F O C U S I N The River of Light 38 DECEMBER 2015 SchoolArts

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