LCI Arts Academy building on school's rich arts tradition

By Garrett Simmons

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Communications Officer

The arts are alive and well at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute. In fact, that might be a bit of an understatement.

The school is now home to the LCI Arts Academy, a new initiative started for the 2017/2018 school year.

About 220 students are taking advantage of what the academy has to offer this year, explained LCI principal Wayne Pallett, who added the idea behind the academy was simple.

“It came about from LCI’s rich tradition of fine arts and having the thought to feature it more and engage students at a higher level,” he said. “It’s really about bringing a greater spotlight to fine arts.”

Kelly Frewin, drama teacher at LCI, added the academy concept features a team approach to arts, in an effort to broaden the horizons of arts students.

“At LCI, we work collaboratively as an Arts Education Team to allow a breadth and depth of exploration among the Arts disciplines,” he said. “We have a team of educators committed to students who are interested in exploring the Arts at an exploratory level through to students who are committed to following a career in their Arts discipline. Our academy program extends the students’ exploration of their creative process beyond the classroom, supports them in networking and learning from professionals in the Arts, and challenges them to create an individualized arts program culminating in a capstone project to highlight their learnings through our program.”

Geordan Olson, who teaches dance at LCI, went on to say the academy allows the school to streamline students into dance classes designed for those looking to take dance at a serious level, and those looking to dance for fun.

“We were looking for a way to have advanced placement in the arts,” said Olson.

There are about 40 students involved in the academy’s dance component, which features ballet training with a certified teachers and guest instructors. Other arts disciplines involved in the academy include visual arts, drama, choir and band.

Students graduate with a Fine Arts Certificate, which is presented at Convocation.

“The certificate is an acknowledgement of 40 credits received in Dance, Drama, Choral Music, Instrumental Music and/or Visual Arts,” said Frewin. “As well as these courses, Grade 12 students must complete the Professional Development in the Arts (PDA) course, in which students explore and reflect on their creative process, develop a portfolio, connect with professionals in the community to learn about their path to becoming a professional artist and the development of a capstone project.”

The capstone project is an art piece, performance or recital that demonstrates the student’s competencies in their art form and demonstrates their creative process. The piece will be developed by the students over the course of their Grade 12 year, with mentorship by the arts instructors. All academy graduates will present representative capstone material at a gala event at the end of the school year.

In terms of the certificate students earn, Frewin added that certificate is advantageous for students continuing their studies at a post-secondary institution, whether in an Arts-based program or not, as well as students who may be choosing to move directly into the work force.

“The acquisition of the Fine Arts Certificate demonstrates the student is skilled in their chosen art discipline, and is likely to succeed in continued exploration of it,” said Frewin, who added it also shows the student has dedication and can commit to following through with long term projects. “It demonstrates the student is capable of setting goals, facing challenges and finding ways to be successful.”

Frewin added the certificate also proves the student understands the importance of personal artistic growth, well-being and lifelong learning and has many of the 21st century skills that employers are looking for, and has developed the core competencies as outlined by the Alberta Government for success in learning and living.

Specialized courses are also included within the academy’s programming, according to Olson, who added all dance-academy-related classes are incorporated in the regular school day for students.

Dance, for example, is a year-round course at LCI, she explained, as students receive technical training in the first semester and focus or prepare for LCI’s annual dance extravaganza, Summerdance, in the second semester.

“Art is important for everyone,” said Olson, about the value of arts education for the entire student body, as she added the academy students can use their high school education as a springboard to future employment. “We are training kids for the future and for a potential career in the arts.”

With that in mind, students will be engaged in the process of creating a process portfolio, which will include artistic artifacts they have created throughout their time at the academy, to not only give students a leg up on a future career, but also as preparation for obtaining a fine arts degree at a post-secondary institution.

“If you are applying for a fine arts program and you already have a fine arts certificate, that’s a very big step up for these kids,” said Olson.

Specialized curriculum is used for courses such as ballet, jazz or advanced dance, for example, curriculum borrowed from other school districts, which has been tried and tested at various other academies.

“It’s very rigouous,” said Olson about the respective fine arts disciplines offered at LCI. “The kids also had to complete an application process to get into the arts academy.”

That application process also included a parent component and a contract students had to sign in order to be admitted.

“You have to show up for your classes, you have to adhere to a set of standards and you have to be able to take it seriously,” said Olson of the demands involved for students.

Ken Rogers, who teachers band at LCI, added the academy will provide students an opportunity to build more depth into their musical skills and provide for more self-directed learning.

“It will feature components such as more solo work, small group work, arranging and composing work, and making their own decisions for composing and then presenting it,” said Rogers.

The Lethbridge School District Arts Education Beliefs Statement states: We believe The Arts promote creativity and humanity in the learning environment and in life.  Participation in The Arts improves self-esteem, and fosters positive relationships. The Arts develop innovative thinkers in demand for the 21st century.

“We feel that establishing an Arts Academy is one way in which we can meet this statement of beliefs,” said Frewin, who added based on this belief, the school has developed a mission for the Arts and the Academy at LCI: Arts Education will cultivate a passion in each student, through rigorous and  relevant programing in each Arts discipline. Students will be challenged to engage at a comprehensive or advanced level of study and to challenge themselves as they develop key competencies through the Arts to be successful in school and in life.”

In the end, Olson added the academy will highlight an already strong arts tradition at LCI.

“It’s really permission to elevate the arts to an entirely new level.”

Frewin added the academy will provide students with a unique opportunity.

“Ultimately, our goal is to foster an appreciation for the Arts in all our students. We support all students who want to explore the Arts with our programing. The goal of the Academy is to support the students who wish to engage in the Arts at a deeper level, either because they wish to pursue an Arts related career, or just because they have a deep passion.”

For more information on the LCI Fine Arts Academy, please see the LCI Arts Education Handbook.

Date posted: Oct. 3