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 and studio art.
A capstone to each year’s efforts in visual arts are the student-created installations prepared for the annual ArtsFest, which occurs mid-May each year. The middle school students enrolled in visual arts electives 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 walls of the atrium. The result is a student-inspired enhancement of the learning space, making it personal, warm, and engaging.
Drama is introduced into the curriculum beginning in the first grade. In addition to weekly dramatic exercises and theatre games, 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 onstage 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.
In the middle school, students can continue their study of theatre through the Arts program. The Intro to Theatre class introduces young actors to character development and scene work, and those students who want to pursue performing opportunities can join the Acting Workshop class. Members of this advanced acting class spend their time rehearsing and performing at various occasions through the year, especially for the annual holiday play (shows have included The Grinch, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol) and for the short comedy play festival that is part of ArtsFest.
In addition, from November through February, as an extracurricular activity, middle school students have the option to participate in after-school drama, the St. Michael’s Theatre Ensemble, rehearsing four days per week in preparation for the big show. In past years, performances have ranged from musicals (Cinderella, Grease, and The Wizard of Oz) to swashbuckling adventures (The Three Musketeers and Robin Hood) to plays based on classic literary works (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland).
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 Introduction to Theatre or Stagecraft. Through these courses, 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.