Teach MAM: An Exciting Partnership to Strengthen Arts Education Across Louisiana
Celebrating the Holidays Through Art
It is always a good time of the year to use one’s talents to support and contribute to a community, but the Holiday Season lends itself particularly well to the art of sharing the arts. This year, across the state and around the world, students are using their gifts and talents to help unite families and communities. Bands and orchestras lead festive concerts. Theatre companies ring in the season with performances of A Christmas Carol and the Nativity story, dance programs entrance audiences with performances of The Nutcracker, and singing students lift their voices in song to raise the spirits of those around them. Visual artists contribute as well through the many sights of the holiday season.
This year, the art of Louisiana’s students can be seen in beautiful ways and majestic spaces. This year, First Lady Donna Edwards invited students across Louisiana to create ornaments to decorate the tree in the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion. The First Lady is passionate about supporting arts education and creating artistic opportunities for students and has made this an annual time-honored tradition.
This year, students from schools across the state created ornaments showcasing works of visual art that reflect their personal experiences and traditions at Christmas time. From watching favorite movies featuring holiday stars like Jack Frost, Father Christmas, and the Grinch to personal family experiences around holiday food and religious traditions, each ornament reflects the students of Louisiana.
The celebration of Louisiana artists continues past the borders of our state. The self-portraits of Louisiana students can also be seen in Washington, D.C., at the White House. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden invited the 2022 Teachers of the Year students to create self-portraits this year. These works of art are now featured in the White House state dining room on the “We are the children” themed tree.
The Chalmette High students, whom I collaboratively teach with my sister and fellow educator, Arianna Cassar-Cruice, Artistic Director for our school’s performing arts program, joyfully answered the call to represent Louisiana artists. They created works to showcase themselves and their families, community, and state in traditional to modern styles.
When I asked one of the students how he felt about having his self-portrait showcased in the White House, he responded, “Oh my gosh! I’m gonna be famous!”
His exclamation of possibility illuminated the importance of this opportunity. Of course, sharing the arts at this time of year cultivates joy in artists and audience members alike. However, opportunities such as these, where performing and visual student artists are elevated and celebrated, create something even more invaluable. They inspire young people to see beyond their current circumstances and imagine boundless ideas of what they might create and achieve in the future.
This season I encourage each of us to look for opportunities where we might kindle this sense of capacity and hope in people, young and old. May we give the gifts of vision and hope for the future, and may we never shy away from the opportunity to inspire, encourage, and lead in sharing the magic of this season year-round.
Annelise Cassar Tedesco is Louisiana’s 2022 Teacher of the Year and the Teach MAM Music Ambassador for First Lady Donna Edwards’s Louisiana First Foundation. She also serves as Music Director for The Performing Arts Academy and CHS Voices in St. Bernard Parish Public School District.
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