UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 01 Fall 14 Library
UVA Arts

Arts Mentors

It is absolutely a two-way learning experience.
Kris Monson, UVa

When Associate Music Professor Bonnie Gordon looked around her children’s elementary school, she was struck by the cultural gaps among their classmates. So in 2011, she did something about it, founding the U.Va. Arts Mentors Program, which has since given dozens of local 3rd to 6th graders world-opening experiences in the arts, not to mention positive role models in the form of participating U.Va. students. Gordon was joined in 2012 by Julie Caruccio, the University’s associate dean and director of student affairs and community engagement. Since that time the program, launched thanks to a grant from the Mead Endowment and now generously supported by the Jefferson Trust, the McIntire Department of Music & the Office of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts, has treated dozens of children to arts experiences ranging from building giant creatures in the Drama Department to drumming and jazz workshops in the Department of Music. The program starts by creating a 1:1 mentor relationship with a U.Va. student, then features group excursions to University and community arts events. According to fourth-year Kris Monson, who is starting his third year as a mentor with the program, the benefits are not at all limited to the younger participants. “Bonnie and Julie always remind us that this program is not just U.Va. students giving back to the community,” he said. “It is absolutely a two-way learning experience.” Monson recalls a particular experience with his young “buddy” Noah. “One of our mentors led an African drumming and rhythms. What was so cool was that it was an equally new experience for the mentors and the mentees. We were all on the same page in terms of listening to it and repeating it and feeling it and making a dance to it. It was just really cool and the kids were so receptive to it. We were all excited to try new things.”

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