Category Archives: PAA News

Staff Spotlight: Santina Protopapa recognized by CWRU

Progressive Arts Alliance Executive Director Santina Protopapa visits with kindergarteners during a recent workshop at Mound STEM School.

Progressive Arts Alliance Executive Director Santina Protopapa visits with kindergarteners during a recent workshop at Mound STEM School.

We’re pleased to share that our founder and Executive Director Santina Protopapa has been named the 2015 recipient of the Young Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Santina is featured in an article in the recent issue of art/sci, the magazine of the College of Arts and Science.  Click here to read the feature.

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Staff Spotlight: Ainsley Buckner

Ainsley Buckner Zoetrope Project

PAA Artist-Educator and Program Coordinator Ainsley Buckner working with third grade students to assemble a zoetrope at Orchard STEM School.

Ainsley Buckner joined the Progressive Arts Alliance full-time staff in spring 2013. In her role at PAA, she serves as both Program Coordinator and Artist-Educator. She is a visual artist who attend the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) where she majored in general fine arts and participated in MICA’s Community Arts Partnership. Her work at PAA includes overseeing the design and implementation of our programs at our partner schools and library locations as well as experimenting in the PAA lab to help test ideas and discover new methods for students to realize their artistic creations.

During the spring 2015 semester, Ainsley collaborated with two of PAA’s artist-educators to help launch new projects that our organization has not implemented in the past. We had a chance to catch up with Ainsley between running from school location to school location to discuss her recent work.

Editor: We’re excited that you’ve designed and fabricated a hydro-powered zoetrope for a third grade residency with PAA artist-educator Jen Craun at Orchard STEM School. Can you describe your process of designing and testing the zoetrope? (For more information on what a zoetrope is, click here.)

Ainsley: The challenge for my design was to use everyday materials to emphasize repurposing of materials and encourage students to think about how they could make a hydro-powered mechanism on their own. The materials I used were a CD spindle, plastic spoons, a piece of Styrofoam, modeling clay, a threaded rod, PVC pipe, a block of wood, nuts, washers, and a cooler chest. When testing out materials and designs I had to keep in mind that 3rd graders would have to be able to construct it and I needed to consider ways that I could scaffold the instruction for the students to be successful, but still leave room for exploration. The other main challenge in designing the hydro-powered zoetrope was figuring out how to change the direction of motion from vertical to horizontal. I solved this issue by using a bevel gear, which the students constructed out of two wood laser cut circles and fluted dowel pins.

Ainsley's planning sketch for the hydro-powered zoetrope project.

Ainsley’s planning sketch for the hydro-powered zoetrope project.

Editor: As you were guiding students into building the parts of the hydro-power system that you designed, what did you notice as the students engaged in the process?

Ainsley: Once the hydro-power zoetrope was complete, you could see students start to compare their hand-powered zoetrope with the energy from the water. The students developed an understanding on how the two different energies affected the motion of their zoetrope animations and which energy source is the most sustainable.  (See the zoetropes in action at the link below.)

Editor: What did you learn as an artist by going through the design process to design the zoetrope and its hydro-powered system?

Ainsley: Going through the design processes helped re-emphasize the importance of being open to learning through testing and letting my mistakes inform new iterations of the design. While building the hydro-powered mechanism with the students, I realized how important it was for me to share the steps I took and the problems I faced in the design process to deepen their understanding of how everyone can learn from their failures.

Editor: 3-D printing is a one of the current and rising trends in the growing Maker Movement. This semester you’ve worked to implement 3-D printing as part of the process of creating installation art with fourth graders at Michael R. White STEM School, in collaboration with PAA artist-educator Allison Bogard. What are some of the challenges of using 3-D printing in the elementary classroom?

Ainsley: I think one of the biggest challenges in teaching 3-D printing is having students understand how the object they’re creating exists in three planes, since they are used to working traditionally in 2-D or two-dimensional planes.

Editor: What did students learn through the process of creating a three-dimensional object? How did students react to seeing their creation come to life on the 3-D printer?

Ainsley: The students learned how to simplify the complex components of a bird’s figure into simple shapes. After breaking the body into simple shapes they were able to see how each body part of their bird informs the body as a whole. The students were very excited to see their 3-D models come to life. They were amazed by the additive sculpture method that takes place during the 3-D printing process. The printer takes plastic filament, similar to how a hot glue gun works, and heats the filament so it can be extruded as a liquid. The liquid then hardens back into a rigid plastic after seconds.

Editor: What does engaging in the process of designing and creating interactive installation art provide for students?

Ainsley: I think teaching students about interactive installation art shows students how they can not only transform a space through visual art, but also how they can inform and educate people through hands-on engagement of their audience.  (Take a peek at the link below to see the process of creating a 3-D bird.)

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Guest Blog Post: PopMaster Fabel on Creating and Dancing in Scratch

Legendary hip-hop dance pioneer PopMaster Fabel recently joined us for our weekend workshop on President’s Day in which students from our RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp learned how to use MIT’s Scratch programming language to code a dance animation. The workshop was a part of PAA’s partnership with the Scratch Team. Read more about the partnership here. Below are PopMaster Fabel’s reflections on participating in the process and creating his own dance animation.

PAA students with hip-hop dance pioneer Popmaster Fabel during a recent workshop in which students learned how to use Scratch to code dance animations. Photo by Jared Akerstrom.

PAA students with hip-hop dance pioneer PopMaster Fabel during a recent workshop in which students learned how to use Scratch to code dance animations. Photo by Jared Akerstrom.

The first challenge in producing a Scratch project was thinking of a concept that could be effectively executed with the tools and templates provided. After seeing samples of what can be done, the possibilities seemed endless, hence opening the floodgates to creative thinking and processing. I instantly thought of a few concepts that might effectively illustrate the magic and wonder of Scratch. Some were very elaborate while others seemed simple yet effective. I chose to go with one I was already very familiar with, The Puppet. It was a performance piece I created with my first dance partner, Mr. Wiggles, where he was the puppet and I was the puppet master. In this case, I was both characters for the first time ever. This was an exciting thought and possibility!

Here is a clip of me and Mr. Wiggles performing The Puppet:

Storyboard for PopMaster Fabel's dance animation in Scratch.

Storyboard for PopMaster Fabel’s dance animation in Scratch.

Transferring the ideas onto a storyboard was the next challenge. The creative process warranted careful consideration of the series of still images and positions that were to be photographed and sequenced. The interaction between puppet and puppet master consists of a series of movements that needed to be precise in order to pull off the effect. This challenged me to think of the simplest equation that would still be effective and contain the essence, mechanics and functionality of the performance piece. This process challenged my way of conceptualizing movement since dance choreography isn’t usually storyboarded or prearranged with notations. I was forced to get my point across in the simplest terms yet remain creatively entertaining. A true example of how less can be more.

Popmaster Fabel shares his storyboard with students during our recent workshop with the Scratch team.

PopMaster Fabel shares his storyboard with students during our recent Scratch workshop.

The final challenge was learning how to sequence and manipulate the images with the Scratch interface. The use of layers, backgrounds, audio files, sizing, speed, etc opened doors to an infinite amount of possibilities. Although my knowledge of video editing gave me somewhat of an advantage, I still had to get acquainted with a new programming system. For the most part, creating an animation in Scratch was mostly based on experiential learning. We were given the tools, taught how to use them and the rest was based on trial and error. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to learn how to navigate through any software and/or computer application. Hands on. Big fun!

Fabel and Team

PopMaster Fabel (right) works with PAA artist Jared Akerstrom (left) and Eric Schilling from the MIT Media Lab coding his dance animation in Scratch.

Watching the animation come together was absolutely magical! It was as if we were breathing life into inanimate objects. Every aspect of the process brought about a thrill and sense of achievement, from adding the background and music to sequencing the images and finally bringing it all together. The experience was self-empowering and leveled the playing field on an artistic platform. Just about anyone who follows good direction and enjoys being creative can have a wonderful experience with Scratch.

Click the image to view PopMaster Fabel's animation he created as part of our Scratch workshop experience.

Click the image to view PopMaster Fabel’s animation he created as part of our Scratch workshop.

What excited me about the students’ animations were their brilliant concepts and creative thinking. Their ideas all varied in themes and were extremely unique. See their animations by clicking here. Some of them seemed to transform themselves into cyber super heroes while others created new dimensions and characters in time and space. The students truly enjoyed the experience and their level of achievement was contagious and much appreciated. It made me wonder, what if this system was used to teach subjects in schools? Would the “edutainment” factor in Scratch add motivation and artistic flavor to the presently stale approach to lesson plans and curricula? If you ask me, the answer is YES! The Scratch project can help revolutionize the teaching methods used in schools and learning institutions. Scratch can be the wave of our educational future and I’m honored to have been able to surf that tide!

It’s more fun to compute!
Jorge “PopMaster Fabel” Pabon

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PAA Partners with MIT Media Lab

PAA MIT Scratch

Click the photo to visit the online studio of Scratch dance animations created by students from PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.


PAA is pleased to share that we have partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab as part of their work on Coding for All: Interest-Driven Trajectories to Computational Fluency, a National Science Foundation funded initiative that is a collaboration led by the Scratch Team at the MIT Media Lab, the DML Research Hub at University of California Irvine, and Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

The Scratch Team has engaged PAA to assist as a content expert in using hip-hop in arts education experiences that also support students’ development in computational fluency. The project is exploring how students can develop computational fluency by using Scratch. Scratch is a visual programming language and online community which enables young people to create and share their own interactive media such as animations, games, and stories. PAA’s work with the Scratch Team has included developing plans on how to facilitate the design and coding of hip-hop dance animations in Scratch.

PAA Executive Director Santina Protopapa  helped implement this work with the Scratch Team by co-facilitating a workshop with students at the Junipero Serra Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in December. During President’s Day weekend last month, students from PAA’s annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp also participated in a weekend-long workshop that enabled them to design Scratch animations using their own dance routines.  Students also worked with legendary hip-hop dancer Popmaster Fabel to learn additional dance movements and vocabulary to include in their animations. Students were excited to have Popmaster Fabel code his own dance animation during the weekend’s activities. See the animations the students created by clicking here.

Students from PAA's RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp busy coding their dance animations during President's Day weekend.

Students from PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp busy coding their dance animations during President’s Day weekend.

In June, Protopapa will join members of the Scratch Team and others involved in the project in a presentation at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Los Angeles, California.  The presentation will share the work of this project and will engage participants in a sample dance and coding activity. The team plans to use the work of the hip-hop and Scratch design experience to generate discussion on ways to develop and support interest-based pathways into computational fluency for youth from groups under-represented in computing.

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News from our Artist-Educators

Why Arts Integration Matters

Progressive Arts Alliance serves over 1,300 students each week with arts-integration programs in Cleveland’s PreK-8 STEM Schools. PAA Artist-Educator Dina Hoeynck discusses how students learn how to embrace the interconnectedness of disparate subjects and more while collaborating. Discover how this work develops students’ 21st century skills by clicking below. Click Here to Read More
Scratching the Surface
PAA is collaborating with the MIT Media Lab

Last year, PAA formed a partnership with the Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group at the MIT Media Lab. Primarily our work has been collaborating in Scratch, a visual programming language for kids. This month our team of artist-educators dug more into Scratch to discover how to use the program in our residencies. Artist-Educator Jen Craun discusses a recent training program and the possibilities of Scratch. Click Here to Read More

Fall Semester Project:
Building a Wetu
Residency Connects with Native American Curriculum
PAA Artist-Educator Marcus Brathwaite discusses his design process for a 1st grade project at Orchard STEM School. He explores how the design process that was implemented failed during the first day of the program and how he iterated the implementation to yield the successful, desired result. Click Here to Read More

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Semester finale at our partner schools

PAA at Gibbons

1st graders from Hannah Gibbons STEM School share the work they completed with PAA during a presentation at the Great Lakes Science Center.

Our residencies in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Pk-8 STEM Schools culminated this week with an exhibition of students’ work at the Great Lakes Science Center. This semester, students used such art forms as sculpture, dance, mixed media, video production, animation, and digital photography to deepen their understanding in a wide variety of STEM content areas. Read more about the arts-integration work of our artist-educators in CMSD’s STEM Schools by visiting their blog here.


Watch the video below to see this semester’s work in action:

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PAA Visits MIT Media Lab


Eric Schilling of the MIT Media Lab, Santina Protopapa, and Connor Musarra celebrating PAA’s work with the Media Lab’s Scratch team.


Connor Musarra and Natalie Rusk of the MIT Media Lab working on a beta test of hip-hop dance in Scratch.


One of the beta test animations created during PAA’s work at MIT.

Last month, PAA Executive Director Santina Protopapa visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab to explore how PAA can help the Scratch Team incorporate hip-hop and hip-hop dance into the Scratch programming language. Scratch is a free programming language and online community that enables kids to create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Protopapa was joined by PAA artist and former student Connor Musarra. Together with members of the Scratch team, Protopapa and Musarra helped design and program a series of beta tests that resulted in animations of hip-hop dance movements in Scratch.  Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting partnership between PAA and MIT.

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Celebrating 10 Years of Arts Education


In 2012, Progressive Arts Alliance has been celebrating our 10th anniversary of
utilizing contemporary arts and 21st century media to inspire students to reach
their full potential. If you weren’t able to join us in August for our
exciting celebration concert at the House of Blues, we’re inviting you to join
us our celebration continues into the New Year.

PAA Video

As we look forward to 2013, we’re excited to
launch the next 10 years of PAA.
Our plans include:
– Serving over 1,300 students per week
– A new office to better support our work
– A new strategic plan to support our

Please join us in celebrating the kick off to
our next 10 years by making a
tax-deductible contribution to show
your support.

How your donation supports our work:
– $50 pays for supplies for an animation project
– $100 pays for a workshop for 30 students
$250 pays for a need-based camp scholarship
– $500 pays for art supplies for two classrooms for the entire school year
– $1000 pays for a semester-long after-school program

Donate before December 31 and receive the following:
– Our collectable VIP Cassette with a gift of $50 or more
– Plus our exclusive 10th Anniversary T-Shirt with a gift of $100+

The work of Progressive Arts Alliance enlivens schools with the rigor of arts
learning.Will you help us move forward into our next 10 years?
Click here to donate now or mail your donation to the address below.

Thank you for your support and warmest wishes for the holiday season!



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PAA’s 10th Anniversary Celebration at House of Blues Cleveland



We hope you’ll join us for Ten Years of Rhapsody: A Progressive Arts Alliance Celebration on Saturday, August 11 at House of Blues Cleveland to celebrate PAA’s 10th anniversary of providing dynamic arts education programs to our community.

The event will feature:


– A Dance Party with Grandmaster Flash,
The Turntable Legend;

– A Performance by the PAA All Stars, PAA’s most exceptional students;

– Hands-on experiences for the whole family – learn how to scratch a
record and more!



– Local organizations will “battle” while
the audience decides who’s best;

– There’s still time to reserve your company’s
spot, call 216.772.4722 to enter.

Project 5 REUNION









We’re pleased to honor Cleveland’s own Project 5, a pioneering 1980s
break dancing group featuring Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone.
At the event, you’ll learn Project 5’s powerful story of how hip-hop and
break dancing united the members as youth and taught them valuable life
skills. The tribute will include a special reunion performance and a video
featuring original footage from the 1980s!



– Featuring gift certificates from locally owned businesses,
original art work, art-making materials, vouchers for unique
Cleveland experiences, and more!


-Balcony level VIP Lounge featuring exclusive pass holder

Event sponsorship opportunities are available:
For more information on these opportunities, please contact
email or call 216.772.4PAA.


Click HERE to buy your tickets now!


General Admission ticket includes access to the 7:30 pm performances
including the Project 5 tribute, Corporate Cleveland’s Best Dance Crew
competition, hands-on arts experiences, dance party featuring
Grandmaster Flash, silent auctions, 50/50 raffle and more!


VIP Lounge Balcony Access ticket includes general admission and
access to the exclusive VIP Lounge (located in the second level of the
main hall), two drink tickets (good for your choice of beer or wine), and
exclusive VIP opportunities.


An All Access Pass includes general admission, access to the VIP Lounge
during the performance, a ticket to the Pre-Performance
“Behind the Scenes” Dinner with PAA artists, and complimentary
valet parking. Begins at 5:30 pm, dinner served at 6 pm.

*additional Ticketmaster handling fees apply


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PAA Artists Complete 1st Annual Training Program

By DiAndrea Hayes

PAA’s teaching artists became students for a week in September at the First Annual Artist-Educator Training Program at Progressive Arts Alliance. Arnold Aprill, who is the founder and creative director of the Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, or CAPE, facilitated the week-long training along with Ashley Winston, who is a teaching artist with CAPE.

Arnold Describing Documentation

CAPE, which was founded in 1992, is an organization that focuses on improving schools by infusing the arts into the curriculum.  CAPE has worked on improving classrooms locally and internationally to places as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil and Melbourne, Australia.

At Left: Arnold Aprill describes possible documentation techniques.

The room was filled with a diverse group of artists that reflected PAA’s commitment to a wide variety of art forms and media.  Artists in the group ranged from a turntablist to web designers and a print maker.  Despite their diverse backgrounds, the goal for every artist was the same: to learn new and effective ways to improve their teaching and the learning process for their students through understanding the principles of effective arts integration practices. Continue reading

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