By Shelby Lockhart
This past NeXt session was held at Maryville Elementary School. This was an impactful experience because we would become involved in Arts Week, which was a NeXt group’s project. Maryville Elementary School is one of many schools affected by funding cuts for arts programs.
The session began with the Artist Spotlight, which were Uve Kern (Senior Ballet Master) and Diane Davis (Development Director) from the Louisville Ballet Company. Together they spoke about the importance of funding to support the ballet and the arts community. They were enthusiastic because Louisville is leading in the arts and culture scene when compared to other major cities. However, there still is room for improvement in some areas. Two of their concerns was the low pay grade that dancers are paid and the lack of job opportunities for dancers in the off-season. Uve Kern pointed out that, “Being a ballet dancer is a job, it’s not a hobby.” They also spoke about diversity and inclusion within the company, primarily within their Board of Directors. Mr. Kern stated, “You can’t have a village and it’s all white people; that’s not how it is. The arts community is supposed to be the ones that are open-minded…you have to respect diversity and reflect the world.” It was great and informative to hear current plans for Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 from Eileen Pickett. She mentioned five priority areas that include: Access, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Promotion, Education, and Cultivation. All of these target areas will be explored to continue to bridge gaps within the community, making arts enrichment activities available to everyone.
The session ended with activities with the students. Some of the group read stories to children in the library and others participated in creating a mural on the chalkboard that read, “The Earth without Arts is Eh…” Overall, this was a very moving experience. To witness how a week of art uplifted the children was inspiring. You could tell that they enjoyed seeing some of their creations alongside them as they walked through the hallway. The world needs to know how necessary the arts are for our communities and especially our young people! I am glad to have been involved with that movement.