Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Let the children play

Valley Arts Alliance to present free arts festival

Express Staff Writer

In a photo by Kirsten Shultz, Sascha Leidecker enjoys Nia of Sun Valley’s Music, Movement and Magic class at the 2008 festival. Photo by

When children are exposed to art, their imaginations come alive and learning can take a new direction. Understanding the need for arts education both in and out of the classroom, the Wood River Arts Alliance has organized the second annual Children's Art Festival.

After several years of planning, the Alliance debuted the festival in 2008 at the Community Center in Hailey. The results were overwhelmingly positive and joyful. Many members of the alliance are participating in the event and will host classes. Those include the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Boulder Mountain Clayworks, Company of Fools, Footlight Dance, Nia of Sun Valley, Sun Valley Summer Symphony School of Music, nexStage Theatre, Iconoclast Books, the Sun Valley Resort Entertainment Department, St. Thomas Playhouse, the Community Library, Royal Larkspur Play Troupe, Red Letter Co-op Theatre, Tom Nash and Ketchum Arts Festival artist Nancy Liston.

"We are so proud it makes me teary," said alliance and festival co-founder Claudia McCain. "We grew up, and now we have joined other arts communities across the state that do arts festivals."

The idea came from an arts festival in Boise. Alliance founders and festival organizers Hilary Neely and McCain planned for several years to make the event a reality. The success of last year's festival led to an even bigger one this year at the Community Center in Hailey on Saturday, March 7.

The free event is for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It is an opportunity for young children to experience dance, drama, music, visual arts and literary arts all day in one location beginning with registration at 9 a.m.

Classes will take place at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Performances will take place at 9:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., and 3 p.m. There is no advance registration, so participants should plan to come early, sign up in the morning at 9 a.m. and stay for the day.

Last year every student in the valley was asked to contribute to the festival; this year second- and fifth-graders were asked to contribute, and there will be art from seventh- and eight-graders as well as from high school students. Art will line the halls of the Community Center, and beyond the scheduled classes will be ongoing activities that include walk-up crafts areas created by the Wood River Community YMCA, The Center and the alliance.

"This year we are not programming performances at the same times as activities," said alliance Executive Director Shannon Finnegan.

Finnegan said two iPod Shuffles will be given away at the theater at 12:15 p.m., and there will be a drawing for an iPod Nano after the Footlight Dance performance. She said the people must be present to win, but everyone will walk away with something.

At registration, children will receive goodie bags with an array of art treats. In addition, there will be more crafts projects, such as mask making and collage. YAK! will present face painting and the YMCA will host an activity to make foam door hangers. La Allianza will craft multi-colored, scratch-off bookmarks, and there will be interpreters available for Spanish-speaking participants. Children will be able to attend a theater workshop, Tom Nash will conduct a class and castle painting will take place all day—an activity for all the children who attend the festival. The Blaine County Recreation District will have a bouncy house and games in the gym all day as well.

The Internet Café will have an instrument petting zoo presented by the Sun Valley Summer Symphony School of Music and Notes Music in Hailey. Children can pick up any instrument and try it out. At 3 p.m. Footlight Dance will present its performance "Olympic Dances," and the day will conclude with music by the Ketchum World Beat Street Band.

St. Thomas' touring theater production of "Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs" will hold its final performance at the Community Center theater. A finale with a conga line and drum circle will take place with all the kids.

Information about the festival is available on-line at Teens as well as elementary school children can volunteer. Bringing lunch is encouraged but food will be available for purchase. Attendees should come early to sign up for activities and workshops.

"This could expand to a two-day event," Finnegan said. "We have terrific sponsors, which make this a free event. It gives kids something as well as creates a family event."

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