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SLTA's Reflect on Experiences with LIVE ART

Service-Learning Teaching Assistants Kirsten Ferguson ’18, a music education major and Zach Forbes ’17 a recent graduate in music, worked with community partner School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC) this past academic year as part of Assistant Professor Rebecca Tyree’s MUED 483 “Special Workshop in Music Education” service-learning course.

Ferguson and Forbes specifically worked with SPARC’s LIVE ART program, a groundbreaking, inclusive arts education program for students with and without disabilities. Working together in a variety of visual and performing arts classes for one year, students with a range of disabilities alongside typically developing students develop skill sets and self confidence while building relationships and understanding of one another using SPARC’s unique ACE (acceptance, compassion, and empathy) curriculum. The year's weekly classes, (October to June) culminate in a unique and moving performance event with national and local artists at the Altria Theater.

“My service-learning experience has helped me to realize how passionate I am about inclusive education,” said Ferguson. “I didn't realize that there was such an issue growing up, because I was always separated from those with special needs throughout school. When I realized how much people who are on the spectrum are excluded from arts curriculum, I made it my goal to ensure that when I am a teacher, my music classroom is as inclusive as possible, and that it is a safe environment for all to learn and grow.”

Ferguson and Forbes wrote a reflection paper about their experiences working with LIVE ART.

“The article that Kirsten and I wrote is about our personal experiences with Live Art, and we explain why the program is so necessary and powerful,” said Forbes. “It changed me, and I’ve seen it change all those who enter. In the best way possible, I’ve learned more about myself and what I need to work on if I am going to help others. I hope others will read this article and be impacted in one way or another to look into what SPARC: Live Art has to offer.”

Read the article (PDF).

For more information, contact Tyree at