- J.P. Lord
Fine Arts Programs Put Students in the Spotlight
No matter where you go in Omaha Public Schools, you will see and hear how our students benefit from the arts in education. Whether developing fine motor skills while working with clay or improving social skills during a music concert, examples are everywhere.
During March, our district is incredibly proud to showcase our talented artists and musicians as we celebrate Youth Art Month and Music in Our Schools Month. Omaha Public Schools offers many opportunities for students at all levels. We are excited to highlight how this programming supports students in achieving the skills outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate.
South High Show Choir Leads with Bilingual Performance
South High’s Ambassadors Show Choir has filled the stage with high-energy singing and dancing for more than 60 years.
Not only do they wow crowds with their choreographed performances, but they also do something no other high school show choir in Omaha does. They perform in English and Spanish.
“We wanted to be true to who we are by incorporating bilingual music in our performances,” said Tyler Gruttemeyer, South High’s vocal music teacher.
From costume design to writing lyrics, students are invested in each performance. This year’s show centered around the World Cup soccer competition.
“The community of South Omaha is a beautiful mosaic of cultures. It’s one of the many things I love about this community,” said Gruttemeyer. “We come from all different kinds of backgrounds, but we come together for a shared love for musical theater.”
King Science & Technology Middle Roars to Life in Spring Musical
For the first time in school history, King Science & Technology Middle will perform a musical this year – The Lion King. A partnership with the Omaha Performing Arts Disney in Schools Grant made it possible.
Collin Jarden, King Science & Technology Middle sixth-grader, says he’s excited about the musical and his character.
“I’m one of the hyenas,” said Jarden. “I had to study what hyenas do or how they move and talk.”
The grant paid for the rights to the production, scripts for the cast and two teaching artists that visit weekly to help with the musical. The grant allowed the school to work with fifth and sixth graders this year, but the hope is to have an entire middle school production next year.
“The growth students have through a musical process is amazing,” said Sheri Vollmer, BSP teacher and musical director. “I love watching students go from unsure and nervous to confident and ready to try anything.”
The students performed one of their songs in early March at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Billboards Feature Student Artwork from Omaha Public Schools
A special treat greets drivers in Omaha this month. Billboards feature art created by our students. The students range in age from first grade through 11th grade.
Their artwork decorates billboards at several locations throughout the city for Youth Art Month.
Washington Elementary first grader Mic Rife is the youngest student to have his drawing displayed on one of the billboards. Rife found out about his billboard a few days before his seventh birthday. He says having his artwork displayed for all to see is special.
“It’s fun to make your imagination into art,” said Rife. “You get to share it with people like your family and your friends.”
Omaha Public Schools art teacher Julie Ryan submitted Rife’s art. She says seeing our students work in the community is a joy.
“Art is necessary for our public school system,” said Ryan. “When people drive around and see these beautiful billboards, they can see what our students are doing in art classes across the district.”
There are 11 billboards located around Omaha. They are sponsored by community partners.
Students Showcase Excellence at Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
The annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards took place this month, celebrating its 100th anniversary. The recognition program is the nation’s longest-running for high school artists.
Hundreds of Omaha Public Schools students submitted work for this year’s showcase. The winning pieces are displayed at the Teacher Administrative Center this month, alongside art from students throughout Nebraska.
More than 560 students received regional honors. More than 170 of those students attend Omaha Public Schools.
“This is the largest display of student art in the state,” said Angela Fischer, K-12 visual art teaching and learning consultant. “I compare it to a state tournament, the best of the best from Nebraska.”
Students submitted entries of all types: photography, hand drawings, paintings and sculptures. Judges scored each piece on originality, skill and the emergence of personal voice. All entries are considered for Gold Key, Silver Key, honorable mention, and other recognition from local Scholastic Awards Affiliate Omaha Public Schools Art Department.
“Art education is an essential factor in the total education of our students,” said Fischer. “It encourages continued commitment to the arts by students, community organizations and individuals everywhere.”
More than 1,000 pieces are displayed until March 31, 2023. Visit our district’s social media pages to view some of our student entries.
Teacher Finds Joy through Art at North High
When Logan Thurston graduated from North High in 2016, he didn’t know his journey would take him back to his school community as a teacher. Now, he is sharing his creative side with students.
“It’s a way for me to give back to the community that I feel like I connected most with,” said Thurston.
Thurston says experienced art educators surround him at North High and inspire him to grow in his craft. Thurston encourages students in his ceramics classes to use their imagination and think outside the box.
“We want students to care about art, and we want them to have this idea that they can do something with art in the world,” said Thurston.
North High student Vivian Landis appreciates the options available to students.
“You learn new skills as you go along,” said Landis. “It's definitely a pathway that will teach you a lot of different skills. It lets you express your thoughts in a different form. I feel like without art, there's no beauty in the world, and everyone needs a little bit of that.”
Take a closer look at the projects underway in Thurston’s North High ceramics class by clicking the video below.