Monthly Archives: September 2010

Summer 2010 in Review: 9th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp

Summer Camp Like No Other

Above: Hip-Hop Camp Final Performance. Photo by Chris Ramsay.

By Laura Einsel

“Who are we? Who are we? Hip-Hop!” sang students at the final performance of Progressive Arts Alliance’s (PAA) 9th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.  In this two-week camp, a diverse group of 40 students from throughout the greater Cleveland area came together at PlayhouseSquare’s Idea Center to learn the four founding elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breaking, and graffiti art.Students were lead by a talented team of top hip-hop artists and educators, to master their skills in all four art forms.  Campers also received mentoring from the camp’s counselors, high school and college students who had attended the camp in previous years.

Connor Musarra, who has been attending camp since the age of 12, said he chose to become a counselor because, “I wanted the chance to change these kids’ lives just like it [Hip-Hop Camp] did for me.” In addition to learning new skills, students also learned the history of hip-hop and how it has grown into a global cultural expression. Hip-hop was started by a relatively small group of youth in the South Bronx in the 1970s “as a means to give them a creative voice and uplift them out of a disadvantaged environment,” explains Executive Director and founder of PAA, Santina Protopapa, who taught hip-hop history lessons at camp.

Santina hopes students at the camp come away with an understanding that “hip-hop can be a positive form of creative self-expression” and that “there is another side to the sometimes negative world of rap music they are often exposed to.”

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Summer 2010 in Review: Hip-Hop Camp

Open Doors Students Gain Confidence Through Hip-Hop  Camp

Above: DeeJay Doc guides students in the turntable lab at Harkness Chapel.

By Laura Einsel

“Be peaceful,” “Stay in school,” and “You can change the world” were just a few of the lyrics written by Open Doors Academy students at PAA’s  RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp held at Case Western Reserve University’s Harkness Chapel this August.PAA has worked with Open Doors over the past few years providing workshops during after-school programming. This year, Open Doors received a grant that expanded their program offerings through the summer.  For the first time, PAA was able to offer its RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp to Open Doors students.

“Our students absolutely loved this camp! Every morning when I picked them up to take them to the camp they were overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation,” said Open Doors Counselor, Jeff Harrell. Students, in this two-week camp, learned all four elements of hip-hop, including breaking, MCing, DJing, and graffiti art.  Hands-on workshop activities included writing rhymes, using the turntable as a musical instrument, practicing breaking moves, and creating graffiti hats and canvases. Continue reading

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Summer 2010 in Review: The PAA All-Stars

Summer Tour Notes

Above: The view from the stage as the PAA All-Stars perform at the Cleveland Orchestra’s Star-Spangled Spectacular in Public Square.

By Laura Einsel

It’s a brand new day for the PAA All-Stars, a group of exceptional students/alumni from the RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp. The All-Stars spent this summer, their hottest season ever, performing at four festivals and five events throughout greater Cleveland.The group, which has been around since 2005, became known as the All-Stars in 2007 with their performance at the Ingenuity Festival, opening for Grandmaster Flash. The group’s members have changed over the years, with new members being nominated and elected by current members. The current group includes Tyler Drummer, Tristen Hall, Connor Musarra, Stephen Phillips, and Eric “Eazy” Solomon.

This summer the group performed a new set of songs written under the guidance of PAA Artist-Educator and MC Jahi, and a new turntable routine under the direction of PAA Artist-Educator DeeJay Doc. The set also includes a dance performance with choreography the group learned from Popmaster Fabel in 2007. The set enables each member of the group to demonstrate their skills in rhyming, DJing, and dance.

Musarra, also known as “Urbindex,” a senior at Hawken, explained, “The message of our music is essentially that we, as members of hip-hop culture, have a responsibility to keep the movement alive and well, while ensuring that it remains positive. We write songs that are intended to provoke thought.”

“Our songs are about what we go through as young adults in Cleveland,” said Eazy, a graduate of Bedford High now majoring in music education.The All-Stars started off their summer performing at Richmond Mall’s Non-Profit Community Fair on June 5th. This marked the triumphant return of Stephen (Steph Love) Phillips to the All Stars.Next they shared hip-hop with folks at the Gordon Square Arts District Festival on June 12, which according to Executive Director, Santina Protopapa, “allowed them to share their work to a whole new audience.” Continue reading

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Summer 2010 in Review: Printmaking

“X” marks the spot on Personal Treasure Maps

Above: Jen Craun and students at the Parma South library show off their Personal Treasure Maps.

By Matt Skitzki

Actually, not just one “X”, but five “X”s mark Jay Kincaid’s Personal Treasure Map.  As the 12 year old explains, only he knows which “X” the treasure is buried under.  The rest are fakes that throw other plunderers off track.  His treasure chest holds a whopping one million dollars, plus a whole bunch of tennis balls.  I might go after it myself, if it weren’t for those tricky false “X”s.

Jay was one of many students who participated in Progressive Arts Alliance’s Personal Treasure Map workshops at Cuyahoga County Public Library branches this summer.  There were a total of 27 workshops at branches around the region.  The workshops were a part of the library’s summer reading theme that include pirates, water, and treasures.Students, age 11-18, used printmaking techniques and a printing press to make their Personal Treasure Maps.  First they created their images on plastic plates using ink and brush, and then transferred the image to paper with a printing press.  The press basically works like a big steamroller.  Next, they ripped and stained the edges of their maps to give them an aged look.  Finally, they stamped their maps with personalized letters, numbers, and symbols to create words and trails to follow to find the treasure.  The result is a polished, “official” Personal Treasure Map.Students had to be a careful – a printing press can “break your bones,” warned PAA Artist-Educator Jen Craun, who facilitated the workshops.  Craun studied printmaking at Kent State University where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking.  She enjoys printmaking because it is “technically difficult and challenging” and, as a bonus health benefit, the heavy machines “build muscles.”  The students enjoy printmaking too.  The majority of students that were there were printmaking for the first time, and they “enjoyed the freedom of the open ended exploration with the media and the professional techniques of operating professional equipment and screen printing.”

Craun’s assistant, Mary Winkleman, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, agreed that students who had never done printmaking before “really enjoyed it.”

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Summer 2010 in Review: Social Campaigns

George Washington Carver Students Find Voice Learning Media Arts

By Laura Einsel

While many middle schoolers in Cleveland took off for the summer, a select group of 6th- 8th grade students from George Washington Carver School started off their summer with a serious full-time job in marketing at Progressive Arts Alliance’s Media Arts Camp – Creating Social Campaigns. Their assignment: to identify a problem in their community and design a  media campaign to solve it.

In this three-week intensive camp, held at PAA’s home building, the youth worked in four professional production teams creating websites, videos, photos, posters and logos for their campaign. They even screen printed designs onto their very own team t-shirts.  Mentored by local high school students and taught by a team of talented professionals, students learned technology skills and marketing concepts necessary for success in the media arts field.

The “Clean the Streets” crew, Jason Foster, Nashelle Rembert, Chris Simmons, and Tyrese Stubbs chose littering as the issue they wanted to address.Rembert explained that there are “too many kids littering and they don’t realize the impact it’s having on our neighborhood.”

The team’s anti-littering campaign included an extremely catchy tagline “Listen To Our Plan, Throw It In The Can,” a video whose main character was a talking water bottle, and photos of litter the students found on the streets.  Their poster composed of a trash can icon filled with colorful crumpled trash balls, was described as “classy” by ad execs at Wyse Advertising.  Once ad exec said he would proudly hang the poster in his office.

Above: Students gathered in the PlayhouseSquare neighborhood to take photos at various downtown Cleveland locations.  The photos were used in their campaigns.

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Summer 2010 in Review: Media Arts Camps

Students create, compose, and design at Media Arts Camps

Photo by Nathan Destro

By Matt Skitzki

Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) was pleased to return to the Cuyahoga County Public Library system to offer Media Arts Summer Camps at the library’s Brooklyn, Garfield Heights, Independence, and Bay Village branches.  Students at each Media Arts Camp were encouraged to be creative while learning about electronic music composition, stop-motion animation, and website design. They took that encouragement to heart.

In one stop-motion sequence, a herd of dinosaurs appears to foil a bank robbery.  The perpetrator?  An octopus.  Hannah Montana was there, too.

In another, a fire-breathing dragon battles a ninja.  The ninja wins, but only with the help of an unsuspecting passing motorist.

PAA Artist-Educator Neil Chastain provided some of the encouragement.  A Cleveland-based percussionist, DJ, and music educator, Chastain showed students how to use electronic music composition software called Garage Band at the camp.

The students responded well to Chastain, according to Nathan Destro, who coordinated and taught website design and animation at the camp.  “They enjoyed themselves,” said Destro, adding, “they were learning while having fun.  It’s the best of both worlds.” Continue reading

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Summer 2010 in Review: Music of My Mind

Students and Seniors Collaborate on “Intergenerational Documentary”

By Matt Skitzki

On July 2, 2010, students from Open Doors Academy and senior residents at Judson at University Circle proudly premiered their documentary, entitled “Music of My Mind: Creating Musical Biographies 2010.”

Coordinated by Progressive Arts Alliance, the 30-minute film is a product of several weeks of summer camp.  During camp, students and residents worked together: they operated cameras, conducted interviews, compiled and edited footage, and even danced with each other.  The resulting documentary is a dynamic feature of engaging content, creative transitions, title boards, photos, and sound clips.

Music of My Mind 2010
Above: PAA Artist-Educator Lauren Sammon guides a student and a Judson resident during a film shoot.  Photo by Alex Rivera

Students and residents alike were brimming with enthusiasm at the premiere.  Students unanimously described the experience as “great” and “fun,” words that hardly did justice to their smiles and the energy in their voices.  Students Lydia Chang and Kaila Mathis expressed their excitement, agreeing that everyone worked as a team, showed respect for each other, and learned some history.  Kaila worked with resident Baird Tenney, who was fascinated to watch the film take shape.  “It’s a demonstration of what happens when everyone comes together,” said Mr. Tenney. Continue reading

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Looking Back: Spring Semester 2010

As we’re preparing to begin PAA’s in-school programs for the 2010-2011 school year, we thought we’d look at our last semester’s work in our partner schools.  Here is story 3 of 3.

Going Green at Orchard School

By Dawn Einsel

Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. These words have resounded through the halls of schools for decades in an attempt to teach a younger generation about environmentalism. But Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) put a new spin on this old lesson this May with its Going Green Residency Program at Orchard School.

Three PAA artist-educators brought their original artistic perspectives to the school to teach sixth, seventh and eighth graders creative ways to do their part to help the environment.

“I wanted to teach the kids practical applications,” said Alexandra Underhill, a local artist who helped the middle school students create recycled sculptures out of plastic bottles, bags and bike wheels. “I want to inspire them to see recycled materials as materials you can build from.”

“Upcycling” was the term used to describe Underhill’s vision. She met with the students four days a week for three weeks to turn over 5,000 bottles into useable chairs, couches, stools and chandeliers.

Above: Students work with plastic bottles to build a chair during a workshop session with Alexandra Underhill.

The students also worked with PAA artist-educator Jahi to write raps and poems about going green. Throughout the residency, the students learned hip-hop history and the basics of performing on a microphone along with a long list of vocabulary words related to going green and the environment. Jahi also turned tragedy into a valuable lesson, working with the students on tracking the recent oil spill.

“The whole time we were doing a green residency we had a catastrophe,” said Jahi. “I wanted the students to realize that this is their planet.”

Above: A student performs her “green” poetry at Orchard’s “Lyrically Spoken” event.

The third part of the residency was facilitated by PAA artist-educator Alethea Gannaway who has a degree in architecture. She taught the students architecture as an art form and the impact that buildings have on the environment. The students used boards, wood, plastic and paper to create models for the construction of their new school.

“I wanted them to know that sustainability is more than using solar panels as a source of energy, but a lifestyle that preserves the future,” said Gannaway. “Whether it is installing light sensors in every room or having a garden on a building’s roof, sustainability is very broad and encompasses many things.”

Above: A student’s architectural model for a new school.

On June 7, 2010, students, teachers and parents all gathered in the cafeteria for a showcase entitled “Lyrically Spoken.” The furniture was placed together to form a lounge where the students performed their rhymes and poetry for their peers. The building models were also displayed.

Math teacher Tammy Zelwin said she plans to show the students’ designs to the architects who will develop the new building. “You guys really inspired me,” she told the students after the performance.

At the end of the day, five students received scholarships to PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp. All in attendance were then given the opportunity to enter the lounge and enjoy the sculptures, which will be displayed in the fall at the Artist Review Today Gallery in the Galleria located in downtown Cleveland.

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Looking Back: Spring Semester 2010

As we’re preparing to begin PAA’s in-school programs for the 2010-2011 school year, we thought we’d look at our last semester’s work in our partner schools.  Here is story 2 of 3.

Students Learn Architecture, Design, Technology and More

By Laura Einsel

What do a homeless shelter, a restaurant on a jet, and a Michael Jackson museum all have in common?  They were all architectural designs created by 6th-8th grade students at George Washington Carver School during Progressive Arts Alliance’s in-school architecture workshops during the 2010 spring semester.

Above: A Carver middle school student shows off his architecture project.

The classroom turned into a design studio, with each student working on a Macintosh laptop computer to create architectural floor plans, 3-D models, and PowerPoint presentations. The architecture workshops took place, once a week, for 12 weeks February through June and were led by designer and PAA Artist-Educator Larissa Itomlenskis, and architect Dru Mckeown.  Students used the 3-D modeling software, Google SketchUp, in order to create models of buildings they designed.

“It’s the same kind of software used in architecture firms, as well as movie studios to create films like Toy Story,” said Itomlenskis.

“Most of the students hadn’t used a Mac laptop before, let alone the Google SketchUp software,” McKeown remarked.  “The models students were able to create were very impressive,” he added.

Students not only increased their technological literacy, but also learned math and problem solving skills.  “We really tried to push ‘user-based design’ or design based upon a specific user’s needs and requirements instead of simply attempting to create something pretty,” explained McKeown.

As part of the project, students were asked to identify the building’s user, user needs, and the problem their design solved.  Users ranged from “me and my family,” to the homeless, to pro-athletes.

Some students designed businesses, such as hair salons, malls, and restaurants. Many students designed their dream homes, while others designed public buildings for the community. For instance 8th grader, Neresha Ball designed a children’s hospital for “children who are sick and have cancer or babies who are born with a disease.”

Kenneth Carrington, a 6th grader in Ms Moore’s class, designed a center he called “Back to Work” designed for people “who need more education and are trying to do better in life.” Continue reading

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Looking Back: Spring Semester 2010

As we’re preparing to begin PAA’s in-school programs for the 2010-2011 school year, we thought we’d look at our last semester’s work in our partner schools.  Here is story 1 of 3.

End of the Spring Semester 2010 at George Washington Carver

By Victoria Ellison

Students assembled together on Friday, May 28, 2010 at George Washington Carver Elementary School’s library for a morning of West African, Middle Eastern, Brazilian drumming followed by breaking and a printmaking presentation to celebrate the culmination of in-classroom artist workshops during the spring semester.

Artist-Educator Neil Chastain, who has been working with Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) since 2004, led the students in call-and-response sessions where Chastain would play a rhythm on his drum and the students would repeat the rhythm on their small drums called Dumbeks.

Seven classes participated in the drumming performances.  Songs performed by the kindergartners were African heritage songs from Guinea, West Africa.  The first graders played songs from Guinea as well in addition to creating sound effects such as the sound of rain.  The second graders played songs from Turkey that included multiple rhythmic patterns performed simultaneously and also performed an original piece they composed as a class. The third graders performed samba rhythms from Brazil and also played original music they composed.

The children prepared for the performance over the course of 11 weeks during weekly 50-minute periods. “You had to get a lot done in each class, which was pretty demanding, we had to really stay on the kids sometimes to stay focused,” Chastain said.

Above: Students performing under the direction of Neil Chastain.

After the drumming there was a special treat.  Six kindergarten boys performed breaking dance moves for the audience to the beat of Chastain’s drumming. Continue reading

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