My Muse, My Mina

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently created a big production with my honors drama students. Typically, in my creative process, music is the inspiration behind my works. But in the case of my Land of Stories show, it was my amazing daughter, my Mina, that was the absolute driving force of my inspiration.

This incredible child of mine was positively smitten by Chris Colfer’s beautiful, fairytale treasure of creative genius, “The Land of Stories” books series. She would read passages and chapters from the books to me out loud with such excitement – saying “Mama, I wish I could just dive into the book and live in the story!” She would hand me the book and demand that I read certain pages. She was absolutely taken with this opportunity to escape into this awesome world with fabulous characters and great adventures. What a beautiful thing storytelling is!

Naturally, we had to have the entire book series, making sure to get the next book as soon as it came out. For her birthday back in December, we even framed the book covers to hang in her room. I wish I could personally share with Chris Colfer the joy he helped to create for this precious girl. I just know that he’d be proud and that he’d adore my Mina and her zeal for his fabulous stories!

I have learned to listen to that voice of inspiration, that lightning strike that demands my attention. When a vision repeatedly creeps into my mind and heart, I know I’m supposed to listen and take action. In the case of my recent big production with my honors drama students, I am so thankful that I allowed myself to be guided by my inspiration and let my little muse, my Mina, capture my attention and fill my heart with her excitement. Thanks to her joy for this incredible book series, I let my passion for writing, producing, and directing mold this special creation. I’m ever thankful for my brilliant girl’s love for fabulous stories and for sharing her passions. And I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude at the outcome: the gift of working with such fabulous people and young stars to make my product a successful reality.

All that being said, if you ever feel that glorious wave of inspiration and it overwhelms your heart and mind, go with it! Follow that road of inspiration and let it take you places and make great things happen! Every time I have followed the lead of my inspirations, I’m always thankful that I did.

My prayer, hope and wish for my own children is that they never lose that ability to be taken by something positive and wonderful, and are never fearful to share their joys and inspirations. And I will certainly be forever thankful to my angel girl, Mina, for sharing her passion for Chris Colfer’s awesome books. I hope and pray that she never loses that twinkle in her eyes and her love for great stories!

Sharing Your Talents

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across a very inspirational video on Facebook. It happens to all us Facebook users from time to time and we’re actually happy that we clicked the “watch” button.  This particular video really tugged at my heart strings, totally produced tears and made me do some deep thinking. Some of you may have seen it, too. It’s a video of a precious, most talented young lady on Romania’s Got Talent.

I didn’t realize how many countries have these types of talent television shows! In this particular clip, although the song is sung in English, not a bit of the spoken dialogue is in English, yet you’re still able to totally get the intensity of the specialness of the moment.  This amazing young lady has no arms or legs, but proved herself a total superstar. What an all-around beauty! I honestly still don’t know the history to this young talent’s story. I still need to research it because I’m curious how she got to the point in her life to be on the television show, as well as what she is doing now.

Upon watching the video though, I immediately knew that I wanted to use it as a teaching tool for my honors drama students. I knew I should take the opportunity to give them some inspiration and a good reminder that life is too short not to follow your dreams. Interestingly enough, the topic of this singing, keyboard-playing talent’s song is about following your dreams. It’s emotional to see grown men crying as they hear this young lady perform. If watching the video is so incredibly moving, I can only imagine how touching it is to see her perform in person.

For me, this performance served as a reminder that we should share our talents. Too many of us do things that we love, whether it’s something with the arts or any other interesting talent, and we tend to not share it. We get joy from doing whatever it is, yet most of us are too insecure, shy or scared to share our talent with others. I told my students to imagine if this special girl had decided not to take that leap of faith and share her love of music despite her challenges. She could’ve easily given up and not taken the risks, but she decided to share that joy that she gets from music and when she did, WOW! Hundreds, thousands, millions have been inspired thanks to this brave young soul sharing her beautiful musical abilities. How thankful are we that she did!

So the lesson is, if you have a talent that brings you joy, please consider sharing it! It just may bring joy to others too and inspire them as well. 🙂

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

The Beauty of Arts Integration

By: Shannon Shull

I recently have had the honor of teaching and leading arts integration at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School. Can I just say – what an amazing experience and opportunity! Let me define “arts integration” for you…

Arts integration is the collaboration between the arts and other academic content areas resulting in a richer, more complete whole that fosters deep, connected, personal learning in both areas simultaneously.

Creating Tableaus with Teachers

I am what they call a “teaching artist.”  I am a trained performer, with a focus of acting and dance, that infuses the arts into regular school curriculums. I get great joy from being a teaching artist!

Me doing dance immersion with fellow teaching artists

So how does arts integration help me? Understanding arts integration helps round out my artistry.  Knowing how to integrate the arts and actually engaging in integrating the arts only enhances my pool of talents and allows me the precious opportunity to share my passions on a very unique level.  As a performer, you seek to entertain and gain great joy from entertaining — add teacher to that equation and you’re knighted with this priceless opportunity to let the arts lead the way alongside education, enriching everyone’s lives.  To me, arts integration means tapping into a student’s imagination and engaging them so much into the subject and art form, that they don’t recognize how very much they’re learning — due to the fact that they’re having so much fun!

Last summer I had the honor of training at Greenville County, Smart Arts, and Metropolitan Arts Council sponsored training institutes and I participated in Kennedy Center’s Artists as Educators Seminars. It was a total thrill for me! I seriously loved every bit of it. Working with school teachers and other teaching artists opened my mind and broadened my teaching horizons. Sounds cheesy I know, but hey, it’s my thing!

Dance Immersion

Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring school subjects to life. All that being said, I hope those of you who read this will also be supporters of arts integration and encourage your local schools to take advantage of the huge benefits the arts can have on education.  It’s a beautiful thing to see a child grasp the knowledge and have so much fun learning!