RPAA’s Greater Richmond Wolf Trap: Exposing Youth to the Diversity of the Arts

RPAA’s Greater Richmond Wolf Trap: Exposing Youth to the Diversity of the Arts

Jennifer Maddux, director of education & community engagement of RPAA. Photo by Kim Lee Schmidt.

“Deepen our youth’s connection to the arts.” 

Each month we highlight a community program that aligns with the values of SoulVision Magazine. We believe engaging with one’s community is critical to fostering positive change in the world.

The Richmond Performing Arts Alliance (RPAA) works to give artists in the greater Richmond area a platform and voice. “We support the artists of today through the cultivation of diverse arts experiences,” says Director of Education & Community Engagement Jennifer Maddux. “We nurture the artists of tomorrow through programming and educational experiences that deepen their connection to the arts and provide spaces for the arts to thrive by supporting Richmond’s premier historical venues.”

Greater Richmond Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Teri Buschman and Richmond Public Schools Early Childhood Educator Cedell Jenkins lead preschool students through an arts-integrated activity in the classroom. Photo by Tom Topinka.

Its educational program, Greater Richmond Wolf Trap, began in October 2018 when RPAA became the 19th affiliate of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts. “These residencies engage children in active learning through music, drama, puppetry, and dance to enhance their skills in emergent literacy, problem-solving, group awareness, and even STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Jennifer explains. Since 2018, the program has grown exponentially. The program began with five teaching artists with residencies in 20 classrooms. It has grown to 20 teaching artists from different backgrounds—actors, musicians, storytellers, dancers, music therapists, and puppeteers. It has also tripled its number of residencies in the classroom. “Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we were able to serve 70 early childhood educators virtually,” Jennifer says. “Since we are typically in classrooms working side by side with the teachers, we were unsure how our teachers would feel about a virtual residency. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”

Greater Richmond Wolf Trap Teaching Artist leads an arts-integrated literacy lesson by becoming one of the characters in a book. Photo by Tom Topinka.

In September, Greater Richmond Wolf Trap will be serving all of the pre-K classes in Richmond Public Schools and Henrico County Public Schools. Jennifer says that means over 150 classrooms and around 300 educators. Greater Richmond Wolf Trap also will host Family Involvement Workshops and share free video content with families and the community. Family Involvement Workshops are led by Greater Richmond Wolf Trap’s teaching artists. “The workshops bring young children and their siblings, parents, and caregivers together through shared arts experiences,” Jennifer says. “They introduce young children to a variety of simple yet effective arts-based literacy activities they can conduct with their children at home, in the car, or even in line at the grocery store.” With programs like Greater Richmond Wolf Trap, our children are more prepared to create their own creative footing in the world.

To learn more about RPAA’s Greater Richmond Wolf Trap and for access to their video library, visit their website.