Newport has a truly unique history and culture of appreciation for and development of the Arts. From local painters to dancers of the Island Moving Company to internationally recognized musicians showcased at the Newport Folk Festival, the Newport community has long embraced the importance of the Arts to a world class community.
Through the leadership of The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), educators have similarly begun to embrace the idea that elements of design learned through the Arts inspire twenty first century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking so highly valued by present and future employers.
We want our children as future community leaders to discover the expressive skills associated with the Arts and to own these skills as core values in their future success.
Not surprisingly, St. Michael’s has developed a truly unique and outstanding Arts program. Middle School students participate in weekly arts classes. From dance to music to theater to drawing, Arts projects and presentations are featured throughout the campus all year long.
All of our students experience a robust Arts programming integrated into the curriculum. The overall goal of our arts program is to provide an environment that nurtures a child’s innate artistic ability, stimulates creative problem solving, and fosters a life-long love and appreciation of the visual arts.
In Middle School, students can partake in musical electives, including beginning or advanced bands, chorus, and recess singers, all in addition to their weekly music education class.
In the middle school, during arts periods, students can take either A-Band, B-Band, or Chorus to gain more experience with music performances. The B-Band, typically comprised of fifth and sixth graders, introduces students to playing music as a group. In contrast, the A-Band takes on more complicated pieces, and also starts to provide students with solo opportunities. Both bands, as well as the chorus, have concerts both at school and outside events.
Of note is that over 30% of the Middle School students play an instrument or sing in the band. As such the confidence and collaboration that comes with being part of a music ensemble are a natural part to our school’s graduates.
Every student attends art class each week through the school, and Middle School students have the additional opportunity to enroll in visual art electives such as computer design, ceramics, and studio art.
A capstone to each year’s efforts in visual arts are the student-created installations prepared for the annual Arts Fest, which occurs mid-May each year. The middle school students enrolled in visual arts electives, including both ceramics and studio arts, imagine, plan, create, and permanently install a collaborative art work on campus.
Previous installations include ceramic globes in the outdoor garden, hanging butterflies amidst the middle school atrium, and mixed-natural-media mandalas along the clerestory of the hallways. The result is a student-inspired enhancement of the learning space, making it personal, warm, and engaging.
When it comes to their performances, St. Michael’s students are held to the same high expectations as their arts teachers who are working professionals in their field. Beginning as early as prekindergarten, our students are exposed to life both behind and onstage, and having their works exhibited either around the school or online. While the annual ArtsFest serves as a culminating point each year, the bands, chorus, classes, and ensembles take the stage beginning in October with the annual Grandparents & Special Friends Day assembly.
Halloween marks the first dramatic production of the school year with the annual showing of Spooky Stories, in which the middle school’s full-year drama students recreate vintage radio broadcasts in order to re-tell ghost stories. After that, they begin to gear up for the annual holiday play. Previous shows have included The Grinch, The Velveteen Rabbit, and A Christmas Carol. From November through February, as an extracurricular activity, students have the option to participate in after-school drama; rehersing four days per week in preparation for the big show. In 2013, the middle school ensemble performed Cinderella. Previous performances have included Grease, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Our Town, The Little Prince and Alice in Wonderland.
Drama is introduced into the curriculum beginning in the first grade. In addition to weekly dramatic exercises, the students also learn how to rehearse and perform in front of a larger audience of parents and peers as they prepare for their annual on stage production. Typically, these plays tie thematically into the curriculum. For example, the fourth graders perform African folk tales in conjunction with their study of Africa.
The Technical Theatre program is a unique experience for St. Michael’s students. As part of the middle school arts program, students can choose to take either full or half-year tech. Through this course, they learn to be wardrobe, makeup, and stage crews. All of the sets for our drama productions are built and painted by the students. During the shows, student techies run the sound and light boards as well as handle moving the sets. This is a unique experience that few other schools offer.
Middle school students continue with the weekly art and music classes, but also take part in the formal arts curriculum. This secondary curriculum allows our students to spend two additional periods per week delving into Art Electives.