Arts and creative programs have always served as an important expressive outlet to help students to find their voice. The Windows and Mirrors creative arts program at Fort Greene Preparatory Academy is a great example of that.
The program, run by creative collective Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble, provides middle- and high- school students with the opportunity to build empathy and self-confidence through art by working with a teaching artist — either a professional actor or playwright — to craft stories from their personal lives and perform them to classmates.
The program also helps students hone writing and storytelling skills, while exploring the magic of theater during the 8-12 week program. And due to its success, the program is expanding at Fort Greene Prep despite a change to remote workshops due to the pandemic, thanks to several grants from the Department of Education, Two Trees Management and other private donors.
Windows and Mirrors has also been running at International High School for Health Sciences and there are hopes of expanding to other schools, Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble Producing Artistic Director Leese Walker said.
Walker said the program, which had been around for several years, gave students a different kind of learning experience and endowed them with lifelong skills in communication and creativity.
“It’s a chance for students who may not excel in a traditional setting to excel in other areas,” Walker said. “They get to be on their feet and act out a scene from history or demonstrate a concept that is more visceral or memorable for them to learn.”
Walker said students really looked forward to that part of the school day, even with the transition from in person workshops to online. “We had a student last semester who said they learned how to speak from the heart. That’s what we’re looking to do with this program, to instill a sense of confidence and for students to really feel like their voice matters.”
The transition to online workshops hadn’t changed the impact of the storytelling, but it had led to some great benefits that hadn’t been considered before, such as adding closed captioning to performances that helped some newer students who had just immigrated to the country. “Also, families from all over the world were able to tune in for the final show, which is normally done in a school environment.”
As the pandemic continues, many students who have family members who are essential workers have found the program to be a place of healing to process the trauma they’ve experienced, Walker said, adding the workshops were a place of support and community building.