My 2020 “ArtSmart” Experience — Josh Berk
I was happy to work with the Bethlehem Area School District and ArtsQuest for another successful semester of “ArtSmart” this year. ArtSmart is the after-school enrichment program held at the Banana Factory that brings art programs to hundreds of middle and elementary school students each year. This year was unlike any other, of course, but the folks at the Banana Factory, our BASD school district partners, and the students adapted gamely! For my part, I hosted a weekly writing group with interested upper elementary and middle school students. For a few years now, ArtSmart has included performing arts, literary arts, and other classes in addition to the many fine visual art programs.
Let me just say what a joy these kids were to work with! We wrote poems and stories and had fun with the written word in many different ways. You can explore their work, as well as the work of their visual art classmates, on the digital exhibition site here. As an added treat, our Moravian College intern Lara Slabber recorded audio versions of the poems. Lara has a lovely reading voice and the kids were so thrilled to hear their words captured in moving performances. Check it out!
The students, Lara, Jody Trostle of Broughal Middle School, and I also worked together on a lengthy story. It’s a mystery story that was truly collaborative. We worked together to come up with setting and characters and dialogue and plot. It ended up being a hilarious and mysterious tale set at a Middle School (named for a certain library director?). The school pets keep going missing. It’s up to students Aadam Black, Bailey Harvey, and Social Studies teacher Mr. Torres to figure it out! The title is Heartbreak at Hamster Hotel and am thrilled to share it with you in its entirety here.