Creative students find creative ways to use their talent—and age, skill level and challenges don’t hold them back. Here are a few students that show readers the importance of art and its way of inspiring and developing other areas of life.
At age 4, Gracie Bayzath began taking Ballet classes at The Fine Arts Association. Today, Gracie, 14, also takes Jazz, Tap and Modern. During the summers she also attends the Fine Arts’ Summer Theatre Arts Camp, which she studies musical theatre and performs on stage in the final production. She also studies guitar at Fine Arts with Alfredo Guerrieri. As a freshman at Cardinal High School in Middlefield, Gracie and her mom travel to Willoughby for four dance classes and music lessons several days each week. In addition, she participates in Student Council at Cardinal and works with Geauga Mom and Pups Rescue. Gracie considers Fine Arts her “second home.” Her mom says that “Fine Arts has helped Gracie become a talented dancer and a confident, poised young woman.”
Since January, actors Liam Stilson and Dana Fries have been regularly sharing their artistic talents with Judson Manor Senior Living community residents through a program they developed called “Living Room Theater Sessions.” The students create a mini-performance of scenes and monologues to present at Judson Manor on a weekly basis. Liam and Dana said they enjoy the experience of working on their acting craft while bringing enjoyment to people in the community.
Heather, a student with Down Syndrome, joined Valley Art Center’s pottery program with hopes of a new adventure after watching an instructional program on ceramic cups. She has grown artistically, made new friends and demonstrates to others that anything is possible in these classes.
Heather has shown students, staff and her family that she has an ability to both teach and learn from others. Her experiences with her art and classmates far exceeds anything one would have dreamed possible. She not only keeps up with the adults in the class, but also challenges them artistically from time to time. She also has taken the initiative to knit hats for the office staff. Pottery has been a truly transformative process in Heather’s development, both as an artist and as a person. She is a vibrant member of Valley Art Center’s student community.
Shane has used his Asperger’s Syndrome struggles in a positive way through creative and performing arts. Annually, he has entertained the student body at talent shows and has performed at The Akron RubberDucks stadium. He was cast in the school’s musical theater and play productions, and also performed in the Greater Akron All School Musical this past summer. Shane will take the stage next month in “Mary Poppins.”
He also hand-crafted more than 100 cards to celebrate special occasions in his peers’ lives — even just to say, “It’s OK— cheer up!”
He works diligently at understanding social cues and exercising appropriate social skills in his day-to-day life. As a member of The Developing Leaders of Tomorrow, he helped to inspire the development of a group called Bonding Hearts.
Codey Montecalvo has been part of the Weathervane Playhouse family since 2011. As soon as he started taking classes, it was clear he was meant for the stage. Codey performed in “Cinderella,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Honk!” About a week after “Honk!” closed, Codey, then 12, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a bone cancer. Despite his extremely aggressive treatment plan, Codey remained involved in the theater.
“The Wizard of Oz” performance was especially magical for Codey because he completed his final chemotherapy treatment right before he took the stage on opening night. Codey is now in remission and volunteers backstage, helps teach classes, acts in shows and serves as a mentor to other young actors. He also will be appearing as Fred Anderson in the upcoming holiday production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Makayla is an exceptional student at Avon Montessori Academy and has led the class in the philanthropic decision to adopt a panda bear. While the students made progress toward their fundraising goal at a lemonade stand, they needed another idea. At the elementary student-led community meeting, Makayla suggested the students sell cider at the school’s Harvest Festival.
Her family donated the cider press to the classroom for the day, and the class made fresh cider to sell. The class was able to adopt the panda. Makayla, who used her artistic skills to make the poster for the cider stand and helped make fliers for the lemonade stand, was a key force in the class achieving this goal.