BIG Program supports local students’ Shakespeare experience

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tryon Fine Arts Center (TFAC) will host an Evening of Excellence on April 23 from 4 to 6 p.m.

This event is the culmination of TFAC’s Showcase of Excellence, a juried art competition among area high school art students. Students’ art works, on exhibit now at TFAC, will be auctioned at this event and the proceeds will be divided in two ways: part goes to the young artists and the other part funds TFAC’s Be Inspired Grants.

BIG grants, now in their fifth year, provide up to $500 for area teachers who want to enrich their students’ arts experiences. These grants have funded projects at all grades and subjects in area schools, from woodcarving to artist studies, from recreating ancient Greek pottery to illustrating math concepts using stop-action photography.

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Julia Sullivan, specialist with the gifted and talented program in Spartanburg District One, was a BIG awardee this year and used her grant to bring Shakespeare to life for her third graders.

These students enjoyed many Shout-Out to Shakespeare activities made available through the Tryon Fine Arts BIG grant. While studying the playwright, Shakespeare Warehouse Theatre instructors from Greenville, S.C. taught students about the fundamentals of Shakespeare’s language, verse and prose. Students became the characters, actively speaking their parts and interacting with costumes and props.

Additionally, students attended sessions with Spartanburg Ballet instructors in which they learned that fencing, which was an important “sport” in Shakespeare’s plays, is actually very finely choreographed dance. Students not only practiced basic ballet and stage-fighting moves, but also learned the history of fencing as well.

A proud student shows off his model of a medieval castle. Students in the District 1 Gifted and Talented Program combined multiple disciplines in the study of Shakespeare’s work and culture.

Since STEAM is such a crucial part of the gifted and talented curriculum, students used science, technology, engineering, art and math to create castles. They explored the historic importance and function of castles in Shakespeare’s time and before and learned architectural terms. Students gained familiarity with geometric shapes, symmetry, patterns and dimensions. They illustrated a rough sketch or blueprint of a castle, then created a three-dimensional castle using found and recycled materials and art supplies. They created real estate advertisements to sell their castles. Finally, after studying about medieval weaponry, students created battering rams and catapults to protect their castles from student “foes.”

Proceeds from Evening of Excellence make initiatives like Shout Out to Shakespeare possible. For more information about tickets for the Evening of Excellence event, visit or call 828-859-8322.

Article submitted by Ellen Douglas