On Monday, April 5, the Coleytown Elementary School lawn will be decorated with yard signs. They’re the work of students, showcasing the diverse arts and music they’ve been studying for months.
The next day — Tuesday, April 6 — different signs will appear at Greens Farms Elementary. Over the next 3 days they’ll be posted at Kings Highway, Long Lots and Saugatuck. Then, look for them around town, in more public spaces like Town Hall and the Riverwalk.
The yard signs are just one element of the “Westport Youth Arts Collaborative: America’s Voices” project. It’s a robust successor to the beloved — but far more limited — Youth Concerts of years past.
Those events introduced elementary schoolers to the high school music program. There were themes — Disney movies, for example — and more recently, tie-ins with countries like India and China, as part of the district’s Global Initiatives plan.
This year’s Youth Arts Collaborative focuses on American musicians — and artists. The goal is to celebrate not only our artistic diversity, but also that of Westport’s elementary school youngsters. Students created the signs, using their own words and images to highlight their own special backgrounds.
Along with the artwork, each school will air a special video, produced by Ryan Smith (the mastermind behind Staples High School’s virtual Candlelight Concert last December).
A variety of Staples groups — the Amati and Stradivarius chamber orchestras, chamber winds, jazz ensemble and Orphenians — recorded performances earlier this month.
The videos will include one of the high school ensembles; artwork from children at that elementary school, and “family folk songs.” They come from around the globe. All were coordinated by Candi Innaco.
“There’s an amazing diversity of backgrounds in Westport,” says townwide arts coordinator Steve Zimmerman. “The kids were really excited to show off their families.”
The Youth Arts Collaborative is a huge undertaking. It’s taken months of preparation. When it’s over, students who created their yard signs will keep them (and hopefully repost them in their own yards). Videos and art projects will be available through their school’s websites.
For years, the Youth Concert inspired elementary schoolers to play music — and keep playing as they moved through middle school and Staples.
This new project will do even more for young musicians and artists. “America’s Voices” will soon be Westport’s own.