Midtown Sacramento organization aims to get students back into the arts

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — School children in Sacramento County will soon have access to performing arts instruction online, something that has been sorely lacking in classrooms during the pandemic. 

The E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts, known as CLARA, in midtown Sacramento is gearing up to produce more classroom videos in theater, dance and music. 

It is building on an instructional series produced for Sacramento City Unified schools and filling a need after limited school hours during the pandemic concentrated on core subjects like reading, writing and math. 

“The obvious places where education got cut if you only have a limited number of hours per day is the arts,” said CLARA Executive Director Megan Wygant.

But evidence shows that performing arts learning improves grades, college graduation rates and lifelong earning power. 

Dubbed the CLARA Classroom, the online lessons allow teachers at different grade levels to present lessons without being performing artists themselves. 

It also gives kids tools to do activities that relieve the dreaded student screen fatigue. 

“As they learn the dance moves or as they learn new music rhythms or new theater games, to close their laptops down and find people they can interact with and play with, so siblings or parents or neighbors,” said Emili Danz, the education outreach director for CLARA.

The lessons are taught by performing artists who have classroom experience — and the reviews are encouraging. 

“They are loving the opportunity to move and get up and try new things and still be able to grow and express themselves, especially during the pandemic,” said teaching artist Emilee Mercado.

Since its initial offering, the CLARA Classroom has taken feedback from parents, teachers and students to heart, and their offerings this fall will now be more culturally diverse.

“We’re going to be offering a class in Bollywood dance, Afro-Caribbean movement, and also baile folklorico,” Danz told FOX40.

CLARA Classrooms says it can eventually help underfunded school districts meet state-mandated arts instruction economically. 

“Pre-pandemic, only about 35% of kids were getting state-mandated access to the arts,” Wygant explained. “We can solve that.”

Meanwhile, thanks to big donors, it will provide access to the lessons to all students in Sacramento County into the fall. 

CLARA is one of the nonprofits eligible for support during next week’s Big Day of Giving.

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