Art School

From foreclosure photography to Frida, Clark County School District depends on all artistic aspects of the community to enrich programs

Kahlo’s ”The Broken Column.”.

”Diego and I.”

A group of Arbor View High School students will soon take a field trip to downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center, where they’ll look at foreclosed houses. Most of them likely pass at least one foreclosed home every day on the way to school, but this is their chance to also learn about photography, perspective and art at Emily Kennerk’s exhibit, America’s No. 1 Foreclosed City: Las Vegas (through Sept. 18, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 120, free, noon to 5 p.m. Tue-Sat and by appointment, 382-3886).

“I think it’s a great opportunity for grade schools and high schools to engage and find art in the broader cultural landscape,” says Kennerk, who also heads the sculpture department at UNLV.

Her exhibit explores what it means to be the highest-ranking city in the country when it comes to foreclosure. It consists of a loop of images of foreclosed homes, paying homage to all of the foreclosures that happened in 2009. The video lasts 22 hours and nine minutes.

“While it’s very abstracted in one respect, it’s actually incredibly literal,” Kennerk says. “It’s almost like a more human way of understanding a reality.”

The artist is looking forward to opening a dialogue with the students, who have spent some of their formative years growing up in the eye of the Great Recession.

This field trip is just one of the many ways that the Clark County School District will reach out to the arts community this year. “We take any advantage for our kids to see live arts together,” says Barb Good, coordinator of elementary fine arts for Clark County School District. “I really believe—and the research has shown—that kids have a much closer connection to art when it’s an authentic source.”

With her counterpart, Rick McEnaney, CCSD’s coordinator of secondary fine arts, Good attempts to find accessible arts experiences within the district and the community to enrich students’ education. Their goal is to get the students out of the classroom and into the cultural opportunities offered in Las Vegas. It’s become more challenging in recent years, with the closing of the Las Vegas Art Museum and the Guggenheim, but, Good says, cultural options still abound.

In late August, for example, before school was in session, 60 teachers participated in an arts leadership retreat, which was held at the World Market Center. The furniture mega-market let the teachers meet, gratis, and after discussing the year’s outlook for the arts, they got a sneak peak at Viva Frida, an exhibit presented by the Consulate of Mexico in Las Vegas and co-sponsored by Las Vegas Design Center, that focuses on the works and life of the revolutionary artist Frida Kahlo.

The teachers learned about the life of Kahlo, whose folk art brims with commentary on politics and gender. Now, they’re equipped to bring students to Las Vegas Design Center at World Market Center on field trips until the exhibit ends Sept. 17. Or, if that’s not viable, they can at least pass on the information and encourage students to visit the free exhibit on their own.

“We really strongly believe in these difficult economic times for the schools we need to make connections with the community,” Good says. “So we have a list of approximately 30 community collaborations that we’re currently working on for our K-12 arts program.”

Those connections include music, theater, fine arts and more. Every year, nearly 9,000 fourth graders will attend a performance of the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Students work with clay thanks to a Native American exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center. They visit the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to see the latest exhibit and head to movie theaters to watch a simulcast performance of The Metropolitan Opera out of New York City. They play instruments that were purchased thanks to a donation of more than $50,000 from the Manilow Music Project.

In addition, the school district has programs that work with Disney’s The Lion King, Blue Man Group and the International House of Blues. The schools regularly collaborate with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which participates in the John F. Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program, and holds training sessions throughout the year for teachers on everything from puppets to art, movement, music and more.

“We have wonderful things going,” Good says. She adds that the main goals for her department lie in making even more community connections and spreading arts awareness—beneficial ideas to all involved.

Viva Frida at the Las Vegas Design Center, Building A Atrium, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, through Sept. 17 , 495 S. Grand Central Parkway, Suite 2203, 599-3093.

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