Meet our artists: Mark Lohr

Meet our artists_Mark Lohr2

Young Audiences’ roster of artists continues to grow to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms, from slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters.

We’ll be regularly posting interviews with our artists, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences bringing their Young Audiences programs to schools. 

How did you hear about Young Audiences? What made you decide to become a roster artist?

I started my apprenticeship with Theatricks Theatre Company, where my performing mentor had a show as a Young Audiences roster artist. I took a break from performing for a bit, and when I decided to come back I immediately thought of Young Audiences as a great organization to work with because of my past experience. I have been on the roster for about 10 years now.

Can you tell us a little bit about your art form?

My art form is Vaudeville-style physical comedy. During the performances, I interact with the audience nonverbally and become a combination of circus clown, comic actor, juggler, and magician.

The creation of vaudeville is such an influential time in our history. Entertainment was revolutionized for the vaudeville stage, and technologies were invented to make shows more impressive using special effects, lighting, and more. We don’t have an opportunity to see that style of slapstick, nonverbal comedy anymore.

How do the lessons and skills you teach students through your art form apply to their everyday lives outside of the classroom?

During a vaudeville performance, students have to listen more with their eyes than ears. They have to interpret what my character is communicate without words and respond accordingly.  Sitting there and taking it in with all their senses gets them involved. In a typical theatrical performance, there is a “fourth wall.” There is a performance or show, but the audience is on the other side of that fourth wall so there is no interaction. I put the wall behind the audience so each performance is a new experience–you never know what you’re going to get with each crowd that comes in.

Meet our artists_Mark Lohr

The performance becomes a shared memory for students. It’s multi-cultural and multi-generational entertainment. You bring a school together with a performance where they laugh and have a great time. They share that wonderful memory, and can relate to each other more because of it.

Why do you believe theater is important for every student to have access to?

Vaudeville is such an important era in our history that we shouldn’t forget. It has a great significance in our culture today. Television shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” follow in the tradition of vaudeville.

But a live performance is so important because, all too often, many students’ primary performance venue is a television or movie theater. There is nothing wrong with these things, but when you go to a live performance you’re immersed and surrounded by it so that you become a part of it. I feel that it is my job to reach out to schools and students who may never have the opportunity to see a live professional performance. In our education, it’s extremely important to give students that experience.

How does your art form help connect students to what they are learning in school?

Hooked on Books” is my reading program where the audience has to listen and develop a response to everything I do. The main lesson I want them to walk away with is that books are more than stories, they are also gateways to new skills! I also share that it is OK to experience failure because to learn a new skill you have fail. The idea that failure isn’t a bad thing, but a part of the process, is a wonderful lesson.

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve brought to students with Young Audiences?

From a performance standpoint, to be able to engage these students and have them become a part of my performance is a wonderful gift to me, and it’s my gift to them. They are laughing, responding to what I’m doing, enjoying the moment, and not thinking about what’s going to happen in the next hour.

In my residency, “America’s Got Vaudeville,” I talk about the significance of vaudeville and teach its skills and comic techniques. Our goal is to put on a show at the end. When I see there is a student who sits out in the corner not quite fitting in, I can reach out to them and teach him or her juggling or plate-spinning, and see his or her whole person change. They discover they have a new talent and skill and can share it with their classmates. Their peers begin to see each other in a different light and overcome social and cultural boundaries.  They share a common bond.  The look on students’ faces when they succeed in a new skill for the first time is a huge reward for me.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?

Young Audiences gives me the opportunity to share gifts that were given to me. My mentor gave me this knowledge with the one caveat of having to share it. It’s so important for me to have different venues where I can go out and give it away, and can see people walking away with a piece of the gift that was given to me. It impacts people’s lives, and I’m grateful that Young Audiences allows me to do that.

Learn more about Mark Lohr’s offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more artist interviews! See all artist interviews to-date here.

Drawing it out

Cyan and Danyett in Nov 2014
Cyan McMillian, seventh-grade student, with Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences visual artist.

By Cyan McMillian, seventh-grade student, Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle

My name is Cyan McMillian and I am a seventh grader at Windsor Hills. I’d rather throw a football than paint my nails (seriously). I felt like a free spirit until my tenth birthday–which was the worst day ever. I was excited but made the mistake of not bringing enough cupcakes for the whole class. One girl–the drama queen–decided to take out her frustrations on me. She waited until we got in the cafeteria and took a mixture of yogurt, milk, juice, and water and poured it over my head in front of everyone. On my birthday! Everyone who saw it laughed. Even the adults. I was so hurt and embarrassed that I ran out of the cafeteria in tears.

I never wanted any friends after that. The more I tried to be myself the more I would get picked on. Bullies targeted me for all the ways that I was different–my weight, my clothes, and my love for school.

My parents signed me up for the Baltimore City summer learning academy, the summer before middle school started. I like math and science, but I was most interested in the art classes provided by Young Audiences. See, I don’t get to enjoy the liberties of art during the school year. Having art every day during the summer was a treat because I got to make new friends, I learned how to use the color wheel, how to make 2D pictures become 3D pictures.

Cyan sharing her story at the Impact Breakfast.

Watch Cyan share her story at Young Audiences’ Impact Breakfast event earlier this month!

My art class was taught by Young Audiences teaching artist, Danyett Tucker. She played a song by Lauryn Hill called “Everything is Everything,” and asked us to illustrate what the lyrics meant to us. I love that song. It was like math because my hands and brain were working at the same time to solve a problem. I was able to express myself without being judged in a way that was fun and challenging. I learned from Ms. D that there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to art.

Ms. D believed in me and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. She let me come to her when I needed someone to talk to and gave me helpful advice when I was stuck. I was free to be who I am again, which made me feel like my old happy-go-lucky free-spirited self.

Ms. D inspired me to keep drawing after the program was over. My dad loves to draw and after that summer we started drawing together. When I found out the summer program was going to happen again this summer, I found out where Ms. D was teaching and signed up. This summer was even better because not only did I get art with Ms. D, other artists also helped teach the science and math classes. I learned how ratios relate to music and how dance movements connect with science.

In Ms. D’s class, we created a mural that’s displayed here today illustrating Maya Angelou’s poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth.” The poem was confusing at first but the more we read it as a class it became easier to understand and inspired me to speak out about the positive and negative things that happen around me. I was able to use my voice through illustration again. I attended this program every single day and now I have two murals in my portfolio.

Cyan McMillian quote Nov 2014

Now when I feel like I have something to express but don’t know how to say it, I draw it out. Thanks to Young Audiences, I have learned a lot about myself. I’m more observant and I know what a real friend is. I know who I am. So what if I’m not a girly girl, I’m fast and I can handle my business. When they call my clothes trashy, I don’t let it bother me because their shiny white sneakers always end up dirty in a few days. And when they talk about my weight, like the song “All About That Bass” says: “Every inch of me is perfect from the bottom to the top!”

Last year I had the highest grade point average in middle school and it is still sky-high. I have a scholarship to any college that I want. I plan to get a PhD and work for NASA. Thanks to the support of my family, a few good friends, and the Young Audiences artists who understand me like a parent would, I am going for my dreams. And while the summer program is over, what I learned from Ms. D, that “Everything is Everything,” will stay with me forever. What that means to me is that if you want to be something and you work hard, you will most likely become that. So keep an eye out for me.

Meet our new artists: FutureMakers

Meet Our Artists-FutureMakers_2

During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far. We recently sat down with Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers.

What is your background as an artist?

FutureMakers started from work I was doing as a visual artist and sculptor with other makers and educators. I was frequently asked if I could bring the type of work I was doing to classrooms. I had met artists, engineers, and technologists that wanted to do projects with young people, but didn’t feel confident about how to approach it. I wondered if an organization could connect makers and educators, so both could build their skills.

During the summer of 2012, I was invited to work with a supportive cohort of community colleges in Maryland to bring STEAM workshops (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) into their summer programs for youth. Since then, we’ve steadily been growing our staff, or as we call them, coaches, and are excited to be working with Young Audiences to provide a formal pathway for those interested in joining FutureMakers to deliver programs to schools.

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

Someone shared a workshop offered by Pat Cruz, Young Audiences Education Director. I wasn’t able to attend, but reached out to Pat to find out how FutureMakers could learn from and work with Young Audiences. In 2013, we were invited to support a summer learning program in Harford County, and participate in the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar. Through TAI, we developed a FutureMakers residency. We’ve been making things that wiggle, draw, glow, and do crazy stuff with kids ever since.

Meet Our Artists-FutureMakers_1

See these sculptures in action here!

What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve had through Young Audiences?

I was watching morning announcement videos at a school which used puppets created by students with TAI instructor and playwright John Morogiello. They were funny and sharp. It wasn’t about adults, it was about youth development with young people out in front. I was impressed by the way art was completely integrated into that school. It made me wish that more places would work and integrate this way.

What was your favorite part of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar? How has the experience changed your approach to teaching?

TAI solidified the way we at FutureMakers think about the pathway our coaches follow. It focuses our expertise and creativity on student engagement, measurable outcomes, and addresses the needs of our teacher partners. They get to see and do what they’d like within boundaries of what they need to do.

Our coaches are experiencing how maker education can connect in classrooms because of Young Audiences. Being observed, receiving feedback, and having scheduling and communications support is an enormous value that Young Audiences adds to our organization.

What does your art form–particularly as it relates to STEM subjects–teach students?

With technology, things are moving toward additive processes – for example, 3D printing, which is a process we incorporate in many community workshops. Traditional craft and art media are now expanding to incorporate materials often found in science or technology classrooms, or only available to higher education students. In a rapidly evolving, project-based learning world, coaches help young people embrace the design process in their creative lives – think like engineers to figure out how to solve a design challenge, and have the confidence to iterate, or try again, when things go in unexpected directions.

How do the lessons or skills you teach students apply to their everyday life outside of the classroom?

Students asking, imagining, planning, creating, and improving is the core of what we’re about. Young people have limitless imaginations, and are open to learning how to take a step back and ask questions. In the past, young makers followed plans or prescriptive examples to complete a project.  We’re learning that truly effective coaches facilitate their discovery of paths and options that lead to mastery – supported by the design cycle.

Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?

Young people need to have the opportunity to try something and fail, and a coach who can help them through difficult spots. Art was the only thing that kept me focused and motivated in high school; it was my identity early on. When we’re working with students in upper-elementary and middle school, identity is a large and important part of what our residencies are about. Art is a fast path to forming and grabbing onto an identity, whatever the content is.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?

It’s incredibly validating to know as an organization we’re doing something that our school systems embrace. I think the most rewarding aspect is knowing that we’re working in a community of other practitioners who are phenomenal performing and visual artists and amazing coaches. That is a very rare mix, and we’re honored to be a part of it.

Learn more about FutureMakers’ offerings through Young Audiences.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.

November smART Tip from Katherine Dilworth

Katherine Dilworth smART Tip

History and social studies curriculum can include subjects that are difficult to address. The brutality of past atrocities, such as the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda, can be difficult for students to comprehend. In this month’s smART Tip, Young Audiences visual artist Katherine Dilworth explains how the art of felting and other visual arts can be a helpful entry point for students when dealing with difficult and emotional subject matter.

[youtube http://youtu.be/0ximBeqQ3Mo?list=PLUssR-3GtBZfiKXpU72zQAkgXh3wBcBzQ]

smART Tips is a monthly video series sharing tips for educators who are interested in new, creative ways to use the arts in their classroom with students. See all smART Tips to date here. Interested in a specific topic? Let us know!