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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Barter Alum 'Artist in Residence' at Abingdon High

Wendy Piper
Wendy Piper

November 30, 2010

ABINGDON, VA — Juniors and seniors, as well as teachers, at Abingdon High School are experiencing new and exciting choices in the arts in education program this year.

Funded by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Barter Theatre alum and acting teacher Wendy Piper has been leading an Artist in Education Residency program designed to strengthen arts education in the Commonwealth. According to the program overview, "working in the arts and with artists develops the skills which lead to improved academic performances in all subjects."

The principal of Abingdon High School, Chad Wallace, echoes that notion: "Our students have a tremendous amount of talent and helping to take their skills to this next level will benefit them, our town, and help them realize more fully their abilities to continue with arts in their post-secondary education and/or vocation."

Richard Rose, Barter Theatre's producing artistic director, says, "Barter has a deep and abiding commitment to the educational needs of the students of our region. We are excited to provide services to the schools of our region, who are experiencing significant funding cuts.

The pilot Artist-in-Education Residency program is one we hope to be able to offer and expand to many other school systems over time. It is one part of Barter's planned expansion of its educational offerings to help the children of the region build skills that will be necessary to compete in the economy of tomorrow."

Other programs offered through Barter's Education Wing include student matinees, independent acting/movement/technical classes and study guides aimed at fulfilling standards of learning for Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Piper spends most of the day at school leading specialized programs focusing on visual art, music, theatre/drama, poetry/fiction and speech forensics — molded by collaboration between Piper and schoolteachers, especially the on-site residency coordinator, Amy Looney. Piper finds improvisational exercises helpful because it is directly related to leadership skills, listening, creativity, flexibility, confidence and overcoming fear.

She says, "Improvisation techniques have proven to be invaluable not only for performers and people in the arts, but also in the workplace and in life. The best part is that the students are having so much fun, they don't even realize that they are learning. Apart from my own experience in watching the benefits time after time, the results speak for themselves. This is why some Fortune 500 companies hire companies to come in and do improv workshops with their corporations, and they work with great success."