Levi Lowe represents California at NEA Poetry Out Loud Semifinals

High school senior Levi Lowe approached the microphone. Standing tall under bright lights, in a low and steady tone, he began:

I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.

The 17-year-old made Sonora High School and California proud last night, performing on the national stage of the Poetry Out Loud competition for a second time (his first was in 2015). The National Endowment for the Arts program inspires students’ interest in poetry while increasing self-confidence and developing public speaking skills.

At this year’s semifinals, held at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Levi recited “The Death of Allegory” by Billy Collins and “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville. With conscious gestures and telling looks, he conveyed his authors’ meanings through action as well as words.

Though he won’t be moving on to the finals this evening, it was no easy feat to have made it this far. To earn his place in the national contest, Levi first had to beat out more than 35,000 of his fellow students here in California, the biggest state poetry competition of its kind nationwide.

“To win—not once but twice—with such a large number of students in such a highly competitive event is a testament to Levi’s talents for spoken word. His delivery is captivating and we are proud to have been represented by him,” said Ayanna Kiburi, Interim Director of the California Arts Council.

Well done, Levi!

Students honor legacy of Armenian culture through art

On Monday, California Arts Council staff had the privilege to join legislative members in remembering the Armenian genocide. The California Armenian Legislative Caucus marked the 102nd anniversary at the state Capitol with a universal refrain of “never again.”

“Armenian-Americans have not only survived, they have thrived and enriched the fabric of our communities,” Senator Scott Wilk stated.

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Salinas High School senior Hanna Hitchcock received first prize in the 2017 California Armenian Legislative Caucus Visual Arts Scholarship competition. Second and third place winners Bora Wie and Gavny Vardanyan were also recognized.

High-school students lent their voices to the conversation by commemorating the tragedy through essay and visual art submissions, with scholarships awarded to the top three students in each category.

The visual arts contest—currently in its first year—challenged students to create two-dimensional drawings, paintings, photographs, digital illustrations and graphic design that centered on a theme of “Human-to-Human Interaction.” Members of the CAC staff assisted in judging the submissions.

At the event, Arts Council Interim Director Ayanna Kiburi highlighted the value of art in education, as well as in shaping and preserving the story of the Armenian people: “Artistic and creative expression allows us all to express our humanity, to keep cultural traditions and histories alive within our communities, and to connect deeply with each other, as Californians,” she said.

File your taxes, Keep Arts in Schools

Alyse is a student at Elizabeth Freese Elementary School in San Diego who loves to dance.

Her favorite subject is math.

California Arts Council grant recipient the Malashock Dance Company is there to make sure both of Alyse’s passions stay strong.

Malashock’s Math in Motion program, explains managing director Molly Puryear, was developed in response to student’s creeping doubt of their mathematical abilities as they grow. Through dance, MIM teachers offer kids a tangible, kinetic connection to math, boosting their confidence to self-express and solve equations.

“Dance and math are my two favorite things, so being able to combine those two together makes me really happy,” said Alyse.

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Alyse (right) and fellow students show off their moves during their Math in Motion course.

As an arts supporter, we know you get it. You understand the relationship between the arts and academics, and the importance of programs such as Math in Motion. Yet less than 40 percent of all California students currently receive any kind of arts education in school.

If you have yet to file your taxes this year, consider making a tax-deductible contribution on your state tax return in the amount of $1 or more to the Keep Arts in Schools Fund. Donations from the fund are critical to our efforts to increase arts education statewide, and every dollar counts. Just look for the fund in the Voluntary Contribution section of state tax returns. All donations directly support our arts education grantees – we don’t hold on to a penny here at the State.

This year, thanks in part to contributions from the Keep Arts in Schools Fund, we are able to expand our arts education grant programs to reach even more students than ever before. By making a contribution, you’re making a difference. You can help more grantees like the Malashock Dance Company bring arts experiences to more kids like Alyse.

After all, we’re in need of creative math whizzes like her for many tax seasons to come.

Visit the California Arts Council Keep Arts in Schools page to learn more.