It’s spring, and around these parts that means high school musical season. For those interested in taking in an amateur performing arts show, there is no better time.
The musical, as the name suggests, has music as a key component. Where I live, our youth are very fortunate. They are exposed to a wide array of instruments at a very young age in elementary school. The music program is also offered in middle school and high school; some high school graduates continue the journey to study music at the post-secondary level.
In addition to performing arts, youth are also exposed to the visual arts. Again, with full-time, formally trained art teachers, the students receive solid foundations at the junior levels. By the time they are ready to graduate, the artistic value of their work is phenomenal. Many of the graduating class will have received formal art education, performing or visual, for at least 8 years of their public school education.
There are many, many research papers that clearly show that an active arts program in public schools not only artistically enriches the students exposed to that programming, but also enhances the overall academic achievements of those students. So why then does art education often bare the brunt of academic budget cuts?
Art is a language, and I believe we owe it to our youth to provide the means to allow them to express themselves.
The annual musical is an extracurricular program—no different than the football team, gymnastics club or any other of the plethora of after-hour school activities offered. Unfortunately, it is an activity that is becoming increasingly more difficult to stage due to increased costs. There are theatre rentals, prop purchases, ticket agent commissions, royalties for the creators, and on and on it goes. Knowing the youth involved (typically around 100 in the cast and crew) would not have the means to commission a professional photographer, it was with honour I accepted their invitation again this year to provide the poster artwork for In The Heights.
The purpose of the promotional poster is to communicate. What, where, when and who are questions that must be answered visually in one tight little package (12 x 18 inches in this case). Research is required to learn the plot, the lead characters and the message the creators intended. The credit requirements from the copyright owners, the colours of the costumes and the mood of the show must all be understood before the rough sketches can begin.
In the Heights is a relatively new production that made its off-Broadway debut in 2007. It is set in Washington Heights, New York City. It would have been relatively easy to license a poster from the distributor that showed the Brooklyn Bridge, the Flatiron Building and so on; however, we wanted to have some fun by putting a local spin on it by using area landmarks. As a result, our rendition has the Macdonald Bridge, the Dominion Public Building, and Historic Properties streetscape.
All that to say, if you have a special skill or talent, please considering offering your services to your local school system’s art programs. Believe me, you will be more than rewarded by having the opportunity to watch youth express themselves through the universal language known as art.