UPE Expands Kidsí Programs


Kaye Merritt, Instructional Media Center, watches as a Pickle Family Circus
clown signs a poster for her grandchildren at the Kidz Klub Party. (photo UPE)
"Physical activity builds muscles, academics builds minds, and the arts build the spirit," says Pat Kopp, University Public Events director. When funding for arts education in the schools was cut and opportunities for children to be performers diminished, UPE responded, develop- ing three new programs for schoolchildren: Adopt-A-Class, Kidz Arts Klub, and Chico Youth Theatre.

The Adopt-A-Class program is part of the popular school Field Trip Series. These morning performances by the same artists scheduled for the night performances cost $2 per person and run fifty minutes. This year over 18,800 tickets were distributed to about seven thousand kids.

For many kids, the field trip to Laxson Auditorium is their first theatre experience. Daran Marx Finney, UPE's marketing coordinator, said, "When kids arrive at Laxson, "they're looking at the ceiling; they're bouncing on the seats and poking them. Then somebody walks out on stage. The crowd is noisy and some kids are looking at the performer. The show starts. By five minutes into that performance, the auditorium is quiet. These kids, for the first time, are making a physical, often electric, connection with that performer. Nobody else in the theatre exists at that moment for that child. Theatre is alive and immediate, unlike the more removed television, video games, and movies."

To make the field trips available to more children at no cost, UPE created the Adopt-A-Class program last year. The initial City of Chico grant for $1500 was supplemented by UPE so all the elementary schools in Chico could participate. Schools were offered free tickets to six of the field trip events for one classroom or three field trips for two classrooms.

Adopt-A-Class sponsored about three thousand tickets this year. Because the initial funding came from the City of Chico, the first year's participants were Chico kids. As additional sponsors are found, the program will expand to include more classrooms in more communities. Six field trips for one class cost $500 and may be sponsored by grants, businesses, or individuals. If the Adopt-A-Class program raised $60,000 dollars, 2400 people could fill Laxson Auditorium for each field trip at no cost to the kids.

For Finney, having kids experience different performance art forms and getting repeated exposure to the arts is almost as important as providing the experiences for no cost. Repeated experiences give kids an understanding and appreciation for live theatre. Kopp agrees, saying, "We're building the audiences of the future."

Artists in the field trip series include explanations of their work. Pan Ramajay demonstrated Caribbean steel drums, showing kids the different tones that can be made. When Chaskinakuy brought Andean pan pipe music, they first showed kids the pan pipes, from the small high-pitched to the very large deep-toned pipes.

These performances enhance classroom understanding of the arts, history, and culture. Some of the artists prepare study guides for teachers.

While the field trips provided arts experiences for kids, and the Adopt-A-Class program helped defray costs, families wanting to bring their children to evening performances were paying full cost. The Kidz Arts Klub was formed so kids could come to evening performances at a reasonable cost.

Kids sign up to be a member of the Kidz Arts Klub for $15. They receive the Kidz Kard which allows them to buy tickets for ten individual events for $5 per ticket. A family can bring one kid ten times, ten kids one time, or any combination of ten tickets. Other benefits to being a Kidz Arts Klub member are a T-shirt, a beautiful certificate, and a party with the performers. Recently, Kidz Arts Klub members partied with members of the New Pickle Family Circus after their performance.

For some kids, seeing live performance opens the possibility of being a performer. Until last year, Chico was fortunate in having Chico Area Student Theater and Chico Children's Theatre. Both these organizations gave young performers a place to train and participate in theater as performers. When these organizations folded, Kopp wanted UPE to help fill the need, and so Chico Youth Theatre was formed. A director, music director, vocal coach, and accompanist were hired. Royalties were paid, sets designed, and open auditions held. Two productions were created this year: How to Eat Like a Child and Wind in the Willows.

University Public Events' dedication to bringing quality dance, music, and theatre to North Valley residents is matched by its dedication to educating the next generation. To help by sponsoring a classroom, or to sign your kids up for the Kidz Arts Klub, call UPE at 898-5917.

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