Berkshire County visual and performing arts organizations reaching out to young

Sunday September 30, 2012

Local visual and performing arts organizations are ramping up their programming to better reach out to kids and teens in Berkshire County.

The organizers say their respective programs are in direct response to feedback they’ve received from their other programs as well as responses from students.

One of the new programs for UNITY, a youth-focused division of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, is a monthly life-skills workshop series for teens. It is being offered in collaboration with Barrington Stage Company’s Play wright Mentoring Project and the Drury High School 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school program.

"When you have students with shared needs and find shared trends, that’s an indicator we need need to look at more," said Kate Merrigan, program coordinator for UNITY -- United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth. The program includes about 50 students a year.

The first life-skills workshop will be held Oct. 11 and offer techniques for teens to help manage stress, one of the biggest skills students say they need. Other topics range from cooking skills to developing healthy romantic relationships.

"A lot of the needs and gaps we found and discussed had a lot to do with basic life skills, the things that students weren’t necessarily getting from home," Merr igan said.

UNITY will also team up this year with the Mass achusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council to offer monthly hike outings for teens and college students.


IS183 Art School and Jiminy Peak Snowsports School has started a new partnership to present a weekly professional development workshop for IS183 art educators.

"Back to Basics" is an interactive exploration of teaching that examines the dynamics of teaching and learning styles and how to adapt instruction and manage classes as individual and group dynamics shift.

The class started Sept. 18 and runs through Oct. 23 . The teachers are Jiminy Peak Snowsports technical director Rick D’Elia and Snow sports Director Sherrie Brad way. It is being funded through a grant from The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America and is part of programming offered by IS183’s Teaching Institute, which laun ched last summer.

"In talking with Hope [Sullivan, executive director of IS183] we realized there are many similarities at the core of what we’re doing. We both take practitioners, people who love what they do and help them to develop the tools necessary to translate their passion into effective teaching," Bradway said.

"It’s really applicable to anything, whether you’re teaching a skiing lesson, art class or science lesson," said Lucie Castaldo, IS183’s coordinator of program development who is one of a dozen artist-educators taking the course.

Sullivan said the program comes in response to the schools growing Learning Through the Arts (LTA) after-school program. It uses state frameworks to provide visual arts curriculum.

The program employs more than 20 artists as faculty for classes from kindergarten through Grade 12. During the 2011-12 academic year, IS183 offered 56 individual modules of the LTA program, involving 668 students from 17 schools throughout central and southern Berkshire County.


In January, the Berkshire Theatre Group will launch a new formal partnership with the Juvenile Resource Center in Pittsfield. The new BTG PLAYS! for the JRC program will invite 12 at-risk teens from the JRC to learn theater skills, which can help build confidence and communication abilities. Throughout the in tensive six-month program the JRC students will be trained to become assistant teachers mentors for children in BTG playwriting residencies at local elementary schools.

A $30,000 Massachusetts Cultural Council Youth Reach Grant will support the program over the next three years. Berkshire Theatre Group was also awarded a $25,800 Part ner Grant via the Cultural Investment Portfolio for 2013, which will be applied to the program.

The new group will meet two afternoons a week at the Colonial Theatre. Twice a month, students will participate in master classes with Kate Maguire, the artistic director and CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group. Associate Edu cation Artist Travis Daly of BTG will conduct weekly classes with the participants to practice theater, journaling and storytelling. For approximately three hours per week, the students will work in a theatre department and be mentored by a BTG staff member.

In addition, on Oct. 10, BTG will offer its first workshop in a new all ages performance education series offered in tandem with concerts held at The Garage venue. The workshops will be offered for free and include an improvisation workshop with Michael Bellar and the As-Is Ensemble (Oct. 10), a songwriting workshop with Matt Cusson (Nov. 9) and a drum and dance workshop with Gaia Roots (Nov. 28).

To reach Jenn Smith:,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

To learn more . . .

n IS183 Art School of the Berkshires, contact Lucie Castaldo, coordinator of program development at (413) 298-5252, Ext. 102, or

n UNITY program at Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, contact Kate Merrigan, UNITY program
coordinator at (413)
663-7588 or kmerrigan@, or visit

n Berkshire Theater Group, contact Allison Rachele Bayles at (413) 298-5536, Ext. 19 or (413) 448-8084, Ext. 29 or visit www.berkshiretheatre


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