Do you know what the term “chiaroscuro” means? Or maybe you know what it means when you hear an actor describe the process of blocking.
The chances are if you were educated in Kentucky’s public school system in the past 20 years, you probably don’t know what either of those terms mean. That is unless you opted to take a drama or art history class as an elective in high school.
Sadly, fine arts instruction in Kentucky’s public schools is lacking, and has been for a while. Way back in 2005 the Kentucky Arts Council issued their first ever report on the status of art education in the state. What that report found was that on average students aged kindergarten through middle school received only 30 minutes to an hour of music instruction per week, and only one to 30 minutes for dance and drama. The majority of the districts didn’t employ anyone at central office to supervise arts programs.
There was a severe lack of focus on the arts. Here in Kentucky we simply were not giving our young students an adequate opportunity to learn about and develop arts techniques.
That is precisely why we were encouraged when we learned that work has begun at Perry Central High School to host the first regional middle school drama festival, with the winner picking up a prize that will take care of their fee to enter the statewide festival next spring.
Students at both Perry Central and Hazard High School are lucky in terms of their opportunities to learn about the performing arts, with Hazard’s choir and Band of Gold, and the Perry Central’s Commodore Players and other fine arts programs.
But at the middle school level, it seems, few schools in Eastern Kentucky are offer similar opportunities. We think this middle school festival can serve as a starting point to begin a focus on fine arts programs for our younger students, and we think it can pay off in the long run. Past studies have shown that students who become involved in arts programs do better in math, reading, and critical thinking.
We applaud the efforts of Mr. Philip Neace, the drama instructor at Perry Central, to encourage local middle schools in Perry and surrounding counties to join in this effort and perhaps build a regional drama presence in Eastern Kentucky. And we will also take this opportunity to encourage these schools as well. It can very well be a benefit to our students, and in turn to our future.
— The Hazard Herald