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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 24, 2003

Arts Education Study Profiles UI Hancher Auditorium As Model Program

"Acts of Achievement: The Role of Performing Arts in Education," a new study published by the Dana Foundation, profiles the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium among 74 U.S. organizations selected as models of innovative and effective arts education programs.

The profile focused particularly on Hancher's programming for elementary, junior high and high schools, including the auditorium's use of the Iowa Communications Network, its Stage Door series for school groups and its artist residencies.

The study was the culmination of a national forum convened in April 2003 by the Dana Foundation, in association with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. It represents the first attempt to document the size and scope of K-12 educational programs.

Hancher Artistic Director Judith Hurtig commented, "Hancher has been a national leader in conceiving and implementing creative residencies for many years. The earlier model, which we still utilize, combines school matinee performances with in-school activities. We try to work with teachers to prepare students for these performances with teacher guides. Many of the in-school activities have taken the form of master classes and clinics."

She says that in addition to these long-standing initiatives, Hancher has in recent years innovated programs involving new and more in-depth partnerships, and expanded visions of arts education.

"With the Arts across the Curriculum Project we responded to the evolving research literature linking arts learning with overall cognitive development of children," she explained. "That project was an effort to integrate the arts in the wider curriculum, to help teachers understand how they can use the arts to teach a wide range of curriculum. In addition to the in-school activities, an important component of the project was the workshop for teachers that each artist presented several months in advance of the residency. The purpose of the workshops was to help teachers develop curricula that incorporated the artists when they worked in their classrooms."

Hancher and school districts have worked together for many years, but Hurtig notes that a new partnership with the Iowa City Community School District takes cooperation to a higher level.

"Hancher and the Iowa City Community School District have been admitted to the John F. Kennedy Center's Partners in Education program, which is designed to strengthen teachers' abilities to integrate the arts and the wider curriculum through professional development in the arts for teachers," she explained.

"In January we will jointly host a workshop for teachers by Jamie Winnick, a New York-based drama teacher and director. The three-hour interactive workshop will focus on Shakespeare and helping teachers to make the transition from the text to a fully realized theatrical experience. This workshop is being presented in conjunction with the performances of 'Othello' by Aquila Theatre and particularly the Stage Door mini-performance in Hancher."

Hurtig says that the success of Hancher's arts education initiatives is a result not only of the auditorium's innovative programs, but also on the commitment of local schools to the importance of arts education. "We are not providing arts education in a vacuum in the Iowa City schools," she says. "Our role is to add another layer of excellence to what the schools are already doing by bringing great artists into classrooms and by providing affordable school matinee performances. In many parts of the country, artists in collaboration with performing arts centers are providing the ONLY arts education available in schools. In many ways we are in a very privileged situation."

The entire "Acts of Achievement" report can be downloaded at

The Dana Foundation, founded in 1950, is a private philanthropic organization with interests in science, health and education. In 2000, the foundation established professional development programs to improve the teaching of the performing arts in public schools. The foundation provides grant money, and also disseminates information to arts educators, artists in residence and schools through symposia, periodicals and books.

The "Acts of Achievement" study is published by Dana Press.

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