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The Renaissance provides unique paths to learning experiences through educational programming – Richland Source

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This is part 2 of a 6-part sponsored series that focuses on the Renaissance’s passion of the arts and what it means for the community. Read part 1 here.
According to a poll conducted by Americans for the Arts, 94% of Americans believe that students should receive an education in the arts in elementary, middle and high school. But with regular budget cuts being made within our education system it is vital that organizations outside of school walls are continuing to provide access to the arts within our communities.
Arts education has long been a core value of the Renaissance Theatre and ensuring accessibility for every individual is something the team at the Ren is committed to growing and fostering over time.
The Renaissance has been providing educational programs and opportunities for youth, ages ranging from as young as two years old to high school and college-age students, of the community for years. 
Including a variety of arts education programming is necessary so that there is always something for everyone to latch onto. These programs range from Youth Ensembles, Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra, Broadway Camps, Mind Sprouts Creative Writing, Teddy Bear Concerts and more.
It was difficult for Teaching Artist & Education Assistant Dauphne Maloney to choose a favorite program. “I keep wanting to say it’s one of my favorite things we do but every time I want to say that I think of another program.”
Arts Education also provides a creative outlet for families that span generations.
Long-time patrons and actors, the Gardner family, have benefitted from the Renaissance’s programs for many years. Nykera and Justice joined their father, Bob, onstage over the summer in the Renaissance production of The Music Man.
The theater bug runs in the family. Maloney and Kati, Bob’s wife, did theater together in college. Most of Gardner’s children also participated in theater as they were growing up.
“Seven or eight years ago all five of my youngest and I were in Peter Pan, my favorite play”, father Bob Gardner said, “We’ve kind of made it a family affair.”
Nykera, now 21 and majoring in Musical Theatre and Communications, auditioned for her first show at the Ren in elementary school, and Justice is particularly interested in dance.
The programs the Renaissance provides don’t just teach the youth about theater and various arts, but a strong work ethic, as well as communication and social skills, encouraging them to come out of their shells and conquer varying fears. When someone is not learning in a classroom setting, they don’t always realize how much they’re actually taking in.
“Watching the kids’ confidence grow is a wonderful thing. Watching them come out of themselves, you know, a lot of kids are real quiet. It’s an area that they find that they can grow and excel, and anything like that is great for kids. There’s also a lot of kids there that they can relate to as well,” Gardner said.
According to Americans for the Arts, 72% of Americans believe the arts unify their communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity. In addition to the societal impact, there are also individual benefits as a result of participating in the arts.
A research study conducted by The University of Western Australia found that engaging with the arts for just two hours per week was shown to improve mental health and well-being and led to increased happiness, confidence, self-esteem and reduced levels of stress and isolation.
Connecting people with arts education early on exposes them to a myriad of opportunities and different paths one might not have considered before. Director of Community and Engagement, Maddie Penwell, is looking forward to deepening her relationship with the community through these programs and making people feel safe and welcome.
“It’s incredibly beneficial for a community to have a thriving arts culture”, said Penwell, “When people feel comfortable enough to express themselves creatively that tells the story of the community, that the community is stable enough to support that.”
“One of the things that I consistently want to believe is that even if a child never sets foot on stage again I feel as though it still makes them a better citizen,” Maloney said. 
“I hope that whatever community they live in eventually will be the community that benefits from the fact that they had a healthy exposure to the arts and that they’ll pass that forward.”
To learn more about the various programs and opportunities the Renaissance provides, visit their website.
Spotlighting the local music scene.
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