Arts Education in a New Era

Ryan Eggensperger films himself leading a physical warm up before launching into his Performance Poetry lesson.

All over the world, teachers and artists are stepping up to the challenge of providing stimulating online content for students, and The Myrna Loy teaching artist team is no exception!

A week before Montana schools closed in March, The Myrna Loy began a new residency in performance poetry with Ryan Eggenspeger in a CHS Creative Writing class. Ryan spent his first session with the students getting them out of their seats and connected to their bodies, introducing them to the Beat Generation by reciting a bit of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and working with them on their first assignment. He asked them to complete a free-write about their relationships to any body part they chose. Students were a bit nervous, but excited by his approach to poetry and his tips about sharing their words out loud. He asked them to do two re-writes of what they’d written in class, one silly and one serious, and to be prepared to share one of them when he returned.

Within the week, it was clear that Ryan would not be returning to complete his residency and hear the results of the re-writes. However, he reached out to me and to the partner teacher, Becca Leaphart, and said he would love the opportunity to continue the course online. Thus began our foray into distance Arts Education!

It wasn’t long before I heard from another artist eager to help out during this bizarre time. Virginia Reeves, acclaimed Helena author, also reached out to offer her services for online courses. She is partnering with 3 English teachers (HHS, CHS, and East Helena High) to share her writing residency these next few weeks. We are envious of the students who will get to experience her virtual residency, and look forward to the day when we can bring these artists back into the physical classrooms!

Capital High senior, Ella House, watches Ryan’s e-learning video and prepares for her Creative Writing challenge this week. 

Special thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation for their generous support of our programs!

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