“There is nothing more rewarding than to see my students’ eyes lighting up with the excitement of seeing the various productions presented by the Norton Center for the Arts,” said David Roberts, sixth grade science teacher at King Middle School in Mercer County.
Roberts is referring to his experience with the Norton Center’s Arts for the Classroom Ticket Subsidy (ACTS) program, an opportunity that he says has been “an incredible experience for our students.”
Created in 2012, the ACTS program gives public school students in Kentucky the opportunity to attend and engage in high quality and professional performing arts programs at Centre College’s Norton Center for free or at a discounted price.
“The Norton Center brings so much to our community, and the ACTS program is another good example,” Boyle County Assistant Superintendent David Young said. “ACTS provides direct exposure for our students to drama and the arts, infusing a love and appreciation of the arts into our school system and into the greater community.”
The idea of the program came about when the Norton Center began to see a need for students throughout the regional area whose families couldn’t afford the cost of a school field trip to an arts performance.
“We were hearing from teachers left and right that their students could not afford the $8 ticket plus a transportation expense and sometimes lunch on the road,” said Mandy Prather, associate director of the Norton Center. “We set out to fill at least one of those gaps by creating ACTS.”
Since the start of the program, Prather said they have served about 9,000 K-12 students with free tickets in nine different school districts, including Boyle, Burgin Independent Schools, Danville Independent Schools, Fayette, Garrard, Lincoln, Marion, Mercer and Washington.
“I applaud the effort made by the Norton Center to reach out to schools through ACTS in an effort to ‘level the playing field’ for all students when it comes to drama and the arts,” Young said. “Our district believes in the power of arts education.”
Prather explained that the number of tickets distributed to the schools is determined by the number of students on free and reduced lunch. Not every district or every county gets the same amount, as there are areas that may have a greater or lesser need than others.
“Arts education is best when it is a community effort,” Young said. “A community that is rich in the arts typically thrives in many areas.
“When programs like ACTS can touch multiple school districts in the same areas, it’s really a future investment in the community. Most importantly, it allows quality arts experiences to students who might not otherwise have them,” he continued.
This year, the program is funded by about $17,000. This number does not include the Norton Center’s new text-to-give campaign that will run through the end of the season. A majority of the funding comes from private foundations and corporate support from Corning Inc., Danville Pediatrics, U.S. Bank, Trim Masters Charitable Foundation and Walmart.
“For just $8, people can send a student to a matinee for free,” Prather added. “You can make a difference with very little, and I think that’s a very valuable investment.”
Prather said her ultimate goal is to, one day, make student matinee tickets completely free.
“I think the arts are fundamental to success in the classroom, and it’s our job to make sure they’re accessible to all of our community, not just the people who can afford to come and see our main stage performances,” Prather said.
“It’s definitely one of the pillars of what we do here at the Norton Center,” she concluded. “It’s vital to our mission and our vision as an organization and as part of the College.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
November 20, 2017