Where Passion & Industry Intersect

Fall 2018 North Valley Arts Academy Theatre production of Spamalot; Photo: Christi Johnstone


Fostering the Arts in Arizona

By Kathryn M. Miller ~

In Arizona, arts and culture industries are more than just passionate undertakings that enrich lives — they are a force that enriches Arizona’s economy. According to the Arizona Commission on the Arts’ 2018 Report to the Governor, Arizona’s arts and culture industries contributed $9 billion to the state’s economy, employing 90,000 Arizonans who earned a combined total of $4.9 billion annually. In addition, arts-related retail trade contributed $1.6 billion to Arizona’s economy.

But the arts are unique in industry — they are passion driven and they enrich the lives of those who create and those who witness in ways that numbers cannot begin to quantify. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the performing arts.

This year, The Phoenix Theatre Company celebrates its 100th season. No institution reaches that milestone without a passion for its mission, which the Company says is, in part, “…inspiring hope and understanding through the arts…” So, where does this passion for performing begin? Look no further than North Valley Arts Academies at PVSchools.

Part of the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools), the North Valley Arts Academies (NVAA) program is the brainchild of the district’s recently retired superintendent, Dr. James Lee. The goal was to create a program that would be a draw for students wanting to explore their love of the arts. It began with fifth through eighth grade at Desert Cove Elementary and Shea Middle School, offering dance and theater. Soon, visual arts and music technology classes were added.

As the students progressed in their educational careers, the program eventually grew to include Shadow Mountain High School (SMHS). This school year, the NVAA Theatre program at SMHS will graduate its first four-year class.

Under the guidance of teachers Joseph Flowers and Dr. Teresa Minarsich, the Theatre program provides students with rigorous academic classes combined with a college-intensive theater arts emphasis. Accelerated movement, voice, acting, directing and playwriting courses are offered, in addition to a technical track that includes set design and construction, costume and makeup, and lighting and sound.

The programs at SMHS bring together a diverse student population with a singular goal — to create art collaboratively. And many students have found their calling and their ‘people’ within the program.

The NVAA Theatre program presents its fall musical, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. The production includes students from all three NVAA schools and runs Nov. 7–9 at SMHS, 2902 East Shea Boulevard. To learn more about NVAA Theatre, visit www.nvaadrama.com. For additional information about PVSchools, visit www.pvschools.net.

“High school is a really difficult time for most young people, especially given what’s happening in the world,” says Minarsich, who has been at SMHS for four years. “I think it’s vital that every student finds a place that they belong. That could be a sports program, it could be a club, and for a lot of kids it ends up being the arts. I think the arts give you the chance to find people who feel as passionate as you do about an art or expressing yourself in a certain way — singing, dancing, band…you have a sense of belonging and I think that’s really important.”

One of Dr. Minarsich’s students, SMHS senior Aunah Johnson, agrees wholeheartedly.

“As I have come into my senior year, I’ve realized that the thing I love most about theater is the diversity,” Aunah says. “I’ve worked with athletes, cheerleaders, scholars, emos, artists, political junkies; everyone, and they’ve all become people I love immensely because they are so vastly different but still belong to our theatrical family.”

The performing arts can also help young people put a sometimes-confusing world into perspective and provide them with tools that they will carry into adulthood.

“Theatre gave me, as a young high school student, a way to understand the world around me,” says Flowers, who is in his 13th year teaching at SMHS. “It provided me with viewpoints and experiences I didn’t have growing up in Glendale, Arizona. It taught me the power of collaboration and the joy and sweat that go into long-term, complex projects.”

Both teachers say that this power of collaboration brings students a deep sense of satisfaction when they successfully create something that is meaningful to them.

“The performing arts are so collaborative, and the skills you learn from taking an idea that you have, then fleshing that out and creating something that you can then share with the public teaches students so much,” says Minarsich.

The skills that students develop go far beyond the marketable, though, and into the deeply meaningful. Flowers says that students are hungry for an “analogue form of communication” that allows them to connect with each other and the audience, and theater can provide this artistic outlet.

“There is such a disconnect with our society’s use of technology to communicate and our need as humans for face-to-face storytelling and connection. I’ve found both students and community members really respond to getting back to the basics of storytelling with heart.”

Minarsich adds that the art of storytelling also helps students develop empathy — something she believes is severely lacking in the world right now.

“Especially in acting,” she says, “learning how to put yourself in other people’s shoes and live their stories and understand why — their motivations for things, why people do things the way they do — and to see outside yourself.”

“Theater is an art form that brings people together in places where they would otherwise tear each other apart,” agrees Aunah. “I used to believe that it would be impossible for a nerdy, religious girl like me to find a social home, especially in a highly liberal community. Yet here I am, repeatedly embraced by my fellow artists and friends for who I am because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it only matters that you joined our ensemble in this cast called life.” | CST

PVSchools To Hold Public Hearing for Proposed Tax Increase

Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) announced the intention to raise its primary property taxes over the current level to pay for increased expenditures in those areas where the governing board has the authority to increase property taxes for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2019. The Paradise Valley Unified School District is proposing an increase in its primary property tax levy of $1,951,552.

The amount proposed above will cause Paradise Valley Unified School District’s primary property taxes on a $100,000 home to be $5.4071. Without the tax increase, the total taxes that would be owed would have been $0.00.

These amounts proposed are above the qualifying tax levies as prescribed by state law, if applicable. The increase is also exclusive of any changes that may occur from property tax levies for voter approved bonded indebtedness or budget and tax overrides.

All interested citizens are invited to attend the public hearing on the proposed tax increase scheduled to be held June 27, 2019 at 5pm at the District Administrative Center, 15002 North 32nd Street, Phoenix.

For additional information, call 602.449.2000 or visit www.pvschools.net.

Back To The School Year

August 2016 CST.indd

By Kathryn M. Miller ~ It’s back-to-school time in the Valley, and once the supplies have been purchased, the new threads picked out and the perfect backpack chosen, reality sets in…and maybe some first-day nerves. Whether it is the first day of kindergarten, high school, at a new school, or just the unknowns of a new year, back-to-school jitters can happen – for students and parents alike. So we asked some educators and school administrators from Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) and Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVSchools) for some tips on how to begin the school year on a positive note.

At the top of PVSchools’ list is preparation. Start to prepare children for any changes, includingschool kids starting a new school, having a new teacher and establishing new routines. Remind children that there is a lot to be excited about: reconnecting with friends and teachers, building new relationships and participating in extracurricular activities.

For some, between summer vacation and busy schedules, bed-time routines have gone out the window. But re-establishing these routines sooner rather than later, including bedtime and wake-up schedules, will help ease the transition back.

“Back to school is an exciting time, but some children may feel apprehensive about transitioning from a summer break schedule to a school schedule. Maintaining a routine with a consistent bed time, wake up time and meal times can help kids get ready for a fun and exciting school experience,” says Matt Schenk, principal at Horseshoe Trails Elementary School, CCUSD.

Another tip to avoid hectic mornings: have children lay out his or her outfit the night before and have the backpack and lunch packed and ready to go.

Creating back-to-school traditions can also help ease anxieties…and provide lasting memories. Prior to the first day of school, plan something special for your child – whether it’s going out for ice cream, leaving an encouraging note in a lunch box or a small gift to commemorate the first day.

Of course, it is not only students who may feel first day nerves. How can parents extinguish their own anxiety?

“Come to school and meet the teacher. And, just breathe! The kids are ready for school,” says Nancy Shaver, principal at Lone Mountain Elementary School, CCUSD.

Throughout the school year, set children up for success by establishing a positive homework routine. Make sure children have a quiet and well-lit area to complete assignments. And keep lines of communication open: check in with children about daily homework assignments and offer assistance where needed; ask how their day was and what they learned.

Finally, remember that learning can be fun.

“Share the joy of learning with your child,” says Dr. Micah Korb, principal at Desert Sun Academy, CCUSD. “Tell your child about an enjoyable learning experience in your life and how it has impacted you. Sharing positive memories about learning will encourage your child to have their own.” |CST

Get Ready For The First Day

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