By LOIS KINDLE
In addition to its regular on-site classes and workshops for children of all ages, the Firehouse Cultural Center offers arts and cultural outreach opportunities for kids off site, as well.
The center’s newest and largest outreach is a partnership with Rohini Rustogi, owner of four area Montessori schools, to bring a series of 12 live performances of the Atlantic Coast Theatre directly to the Riverview, Apollo Beach and Brandon schools. The shows include live performers, music and audience participation.”
The Firehouse Cultural Center booked the theatre group and brought the presentation to each school. Rustogi paid the center a highly reduced fee, which, in turn, was used to pay the performers.
“Many thanks to Ms. Beth Stein, of the Firehouse Cultural Center, for recently bringing us an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Rustogi said. “I read the book when I was young, and watching the recent performance took me down memory lane. I could just see myself with the book back home in India.
“Unlike the Disney shows the children now see, stories like this are classic Christmas tales passed through generations,” she continued. “I think it’s important for them to learn about the old traditional stories and fairy tales we grew up with, especially when they’re told through live theater performance.”
Jacky Dickerson, senior director for the two campuses of SouthShore Montessori schools in Apollo Beach, agrees.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “The children get to experience these highly enjoyable, educational opportunities while remaining in the comfort of their schools. They absolutely love it.
“We look forward to even more of these performances,” she said.
Field trips and more
The Firehouse Cultural Center also offers schools, youth groups and home-school students the opportunity to enjoy live performances and workshops in the form of field trips.
On Dec. 16, for example, 140 1st- and 4th-grade students from Lopez and Mendenhall elementary schools in Tampa came by school bus to visit the Firehouse and view the Atlantic Coast Theatre performance of The Elf and the Shoemaker.
As in the Montessori outreach, the on-site event included live performers, music and audience participation.
“The room was filled with excitement and laughter,” Stein said. “It was obvious the kids were having a ball. You could see it in the way they interacted with the performers. They were completely engaged, and the teachers were thrilled.”
In another recent outreach, Stein set up a custom workshop of three small-group clay classes to be offered in the Firehouse Studio during the months of Dec. and January for Home School of Ruskin students. About 40 children will benefit.
“These are opportunities for us to offer art and culture to schools and other organizations, whether they come to us or we go to them,” Stein said. “Even though they are fee-based, the cost is greatly reduced due to available grants from various state and county agencies.
“Our ability to help provide these programs is so important because arts funding in our schools has been cut drastically in recent years,” she added. “Many schools do not have any arts or music programs at all.”
For more information, call Stein at 813-645-7651 or email email@example.com/.