Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will present its first K-12 Arts Extravaganza on May 16, in partnership with and sponsored by the arts nonprofit Embracing Our Differences Michigan
YCS students' art pieces, music, and dance performances exploring themes of diversity, acceptance, and inclusion will be featured at Washtenaw Community College’s (WCC) Morris Lawrence Building. Due to the amount of seats in the Morris Lawrence Building auditorium, the YCS Arts Extravaganza at WCC will be for YCS students, faculty, and parents exclusively. However, student artwork will also be available to view online in a digital gallery. The event is inspired by Embracing our Differences' own art exhibits, located at Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park and Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park.
Kathy Fisk, visual arts coordinator for YCS, says the event brings together YCS' arts, music, and physical education departments, which all fall under YCS' Unified Arts Department.
"This is the first time we’ve done something like this," Fisk says. "Each art teacher managed it in their own way, and the music and PE departments have been working all throughout the second half of the year coming up with performances."
Fisk says YCS has partnered with Ann Arbor nonprofit Cultureverse
to develop a virtual gallery of all submitted student work, which will be projected throughout the space at WCC to make for a "strongly visual digital exhibit which which will also support the performances happening on stage."
Embracing Our Differences Executive Director Nancy Margolis describes the partnership between the nonprofit and YCS as a "natural development." Embracing Our Differences will pay expenses for materials and the exhibition space at WCC. Embracing Our Differences also facilitated collaboration between YCS and other local artists and organizations, such as hiring a dance and movement instructor to help the physical education classes develop their own performances.
"The teachers who participated tried to incorporate the performance into their regular curriculum, rather than adding another layer of responsibilities," Margolis says. "Hopefully the model will encourage other school systems to replicate the event."
Fisk believes the event will be a recurring one at YCS. She hopes to see YCS create even more community partnerships in future iterations of the event.
"The district would not be able to do anything like this without the support of Embracing our Differences," Fisk says. "That’s why the connection to the community is so important. What better way to express these important ideas from Embracing Our Differences than through the arts?"
The in-person event is scheduled for May 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
Photo courtesy of YCS.
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