Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Arts Engagement Family Program provides access to Center for the Performing Arts events and activities

By Erica Brown

The Arts Engagement Family Program recently celebrated its inaugural year of expanding access to families to quality and educational events. Now, the Center for the Performing Arts wants to reach a goal of registering 100 families by the end of the 2023-2024 season.

The aim of the Arts Engagement Family Program is to connect local families with the arts and each other. For those who meet the eligibility requirements of a household income of $60,000 or less, the center will provide discounted tickets to experience the performing arts.

In the past year, the program has sold more than 130 discounted tickets and registered 86 families, said Keith Brainard, the Arts Ticket Center customer service supervisor.

Shu-Wei Chuang and his wife and son are members of the program. Chuang said the center’s performances helped to ease his family’s transition after arriving in State College, and he was happy for a joyful experience for his son.

“My son eased his nervousness after we enjoyed “Bluey’s Big Play.” In November, we were deeply moved by the heartwarming and powerful music in the musical “Come From Away.” We watched the percussion show “Stomp,” and my son was happy during the show,” Chuang said.

He added that he likes that he “can choose the shows you want to watch at an affordable price within a limited number of times and tickets.”

Chuang said his family will continue with the Arts Engagement Family Program in the future so they “can enjoy the events, have fun and inspire something new from the shows.”

Visit Arts Engagement Family Program for more details and an application form. Contact Brainard via email at kab248@psu.edu or call 814-863-0255 for more information.

Community-building component

Chaung’s reasons to stay with the program are echoed by Medora Ebersole, the Center for the Performing Arts education and community programs manager, and center Director Sita Frederick.

“Performances can be used to explore almost anything. Immersing families in the performing arts both inside and outside the theater strengthens communities,” Ebersole said. “This has been the Arts Engagement Family Program’s goal by continuously reaching out to families for community-building activities.”

According to the study “Collaborative Art-Making Experiences as a Means to Promote Family Involvement in an Early Childhood Classroom,” the arts can improve educational outcomes and is a way to get families involved in their child’s education. The arts allow children to reflect on their experiences and memories by providing a visual outlet for expression.

“The arts are a powerful way for families to support their children to learn and develop in different kinds of environments, not only formal school. We can learn while having fun or feeling emotions during a performance,” Frederick said. “The arts help encourage creativity which is connected to problem-solving, flexibility and resilience.”

The most recent community-building event coincided with “Bluey’s Big Play,” which was presented Sept. 7 in Eisenhower Auditorium. Families gathered across the street from Eisenhower Auditorium to play “Musical Statues” (a freeze-dance-style game inspired by an episode of “Bluey”) and write fan-mail to Bluey. Arts Engagement Family Program members also received a bag full of activities to bring “Bluey’s Big Play” into their homes.

Program’s beginnings

The Arts Engagement Family Program grew from the Family and Education Leaders Ad Hoc Council. In Fall 2022, Frederick issued a call for participation in the new program. She wanted to bring families and education partners into the programming process for the center’s season, as they are valuable collaborators in designing art experiences to inspire, hope, connection and healing within the community.

“We have heard our community loud and clear that one of the barriers to participation is affordability,” she said. “This program and our free events are a response to that call to action.”

The Arts Engagement Family Program aims to have relevant and accessible art experiences for all families without financial strain.

About the Center for the Performing Arts

The Center for the Performing Arts is a nonprofit organization based at Penn State, with an aim of connecting people artistically through passion, inspiration and inner truths. At its core, the Center of the Performing Arts focuses on creative innovation, community service, artistic leadership and committed stewardship.

The organization was founded in 1957 as an Artist Lecture Series, and it has only seen continued growth in enriching the community with arts and culture and by funding through ticket sales, development, grants and other sources.

Visit Center for the Performing Arts online for more information about upcoming events and more.

Erica Brown is an education and community programs intern at the Center for the Performing Arts. She is a fourth-year Penn State student studying advertising/public relations and English.