'Arts Alive'

Hula lessons were a big hit with all ages at the Arts Alive and Writer’s Workshop event for students at Dapplegray Elementary School in Rolling Hills Estates. 

Wouldn’t it be magical and amazing if adults experienced the arts through the eyes of a child? Three motivated mothers with students at Dapplegray Elementary School had that dream and turned it into reality.

Ten years ago, Kristine Skeie, Nancy Shafer and Jane Calvert wanted to expose their children to the thrill of the arts while they were young, curious and adventurous. They created the “Arts Alive and Writer’s Workshop” for third- through fifth-graders, and a small Art Walk with six to eight creative people performing as the students passed by. Angela Galuppo stepped in when Calvert stepped out, and the program took on momentum and grew.

“Arts Alive is the essence of the Dapplegray community,” said Principal Nancy Parsons. “From the parent participation and organization to the quality of the artists who share their expertise in workshops throughout the day, the entire event demonstrates the importance of collaboration and creativity, essential skills for success in life.”

Skeie, a dynamic mother of two girls, has been involved in every aspect of the event. Her brown eyes sparkled when she talked about the Art Walk’s growth over the years.

Last Friday kicked off with a Drum Line, which as Parsons noted, “sets the tone of excitement for the day.” This year, there were 16 professional participants (music, art, authors, dance, cartoonist, magic, musical theater, opera singer, martial arts) as well as 38 workshop presenters. Students attended workshops in writing, sculpting, dance, music, drawing, painting, fashion design, screenwriting, songwriting, graphic design, acting, voice-over-work, video production, jewelry making, animation, magic, photography, ceramics and martial arts. There was even a live peacock — Rad the unofficial Peacock Ambassador of Palos Verdes, courtesy of the Pixie Dust Ranch in Rolling Hills Estates.

“Arts Alive is the best day of the whole school year,” fifth-grader Sofia Deek said with a wide smile. She was hoping to take workshops in dance, video production and to paint in the mural workshop. “Even though I want to be an engineer,” she said, “I appreciate the arts.”

Dempsey Resich is a third-grader, and he took three workshops this year — writing, acting and photography. His favorite was Mark Nicholas’s photography workshop. Dempsey is a budding photographer, and he said that he wished the workshop had lasted all day. But he added that it doesn’t matter what workshop you do — it’s all great.

Sophie Torres and her friend, Ava Glusac, agreed that the Art Walk was fun because you could see a lot of things that people do (like the performer clogging on the table beside the girls) and learn new things. The girls were lamenting that they were fifth-graders and this would be their last Arts Alive at the school.

“It’s an amazing day,” Ava said. “Really fun.”

Skeie is proud of the “Open Mic” program she launched in which children showcase their own talents. “Not a talent show,” she said, shaking her head. “I wanted something geared to kids who want to get on a stage but are afraid. That’s what the day is about for me: to expose children to the arts and let them enjoy it freely.”

The students did whatever they wanted, including singing, dancing, martial arts, magic, comedy or playing instruments. Sullivan Resich, Dempsey’s younger sister, participated in two workshops — hip-hop dance and reading.

“Hip hop was my favorite because we got to do the ‘Whip and Nae Nae,’ ” the second-grader confided. She also performed in Open Mic with her classmates and kindergarten buddies. The girls danced to audition songs from the movie “Sing,” with each child performing a solo dance, as well as the group number. According to her mom, Sully had a blast and is already planning her gymnastics routine for next year.

Artist Wendy Watson, a popular workshop presenter, created a mural of the Dapplegray colts for her first art workshop back in 2011. She sketched out the pieces and her students painted it. The mural was a big hit with everyone and now there are four more.

“A shining reminder,” Skeie pointed out with pride, “of the success of the program.”

Galuppo and Skeie still work on the event even though their children have graduated from the school.

“I co-chaired or chaired the event for six years. However, this year I’m stepping away from the supervisory capacity, but I will present a workshop as long as they want me,” Skeie said, passionately.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported that PVPUSD arts programs have been reduced or eliminated as a result of implementing the Common Core curriculum. Common Core has had no impact on district arts programs, according to Superintendent Don Austin.

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