By Bernie Petit
They want creative problem solvers and critical thinkers – the kind of traits students develop when the core curriculum in schools are supported by arts experiences.
It’s a key point of “Spiral Bound,” the arts advocacy documentary which will premiere Tuesday, Sept. 9 at McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square (345 N. College St., Charlotte). A second premiere event will take place Thursday, Sept. 11 at the Davidson College Duke Family Performance Hall (207 Faculty Drive, Davidson).
The documentary follows a group of high school students in the Arts & Science Council’s (ASC) Studio 345 program and education scholars from Davidson College seeking social justice in the U.S. public education system through the infusion of the arts, which play a critical role in the development of the 21st century workforce.
“By working through various mediums of art, whether it is visual arts or performing arts, students learn how to look at things differently and see things from different perspectives,” said Dr. Barbara Ann Temple, ASC vice president of education and “Spiral Bound” co-writer.
The inspiration for the film came last year when Davidson College launched its Education Scholars initiative, a 10-week “Transition to Impact” summer program in which college students were placed in project-based internships with local partners in and around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg education system, including ASC.
“All of these scholars were after one thing – to effect change at every level of the education system,” Temple said. “So I thought, wow, what these college students were fighting for, or what they were seeking change in, the students at Studio 345 were the faces of that issue.”
Studio 345 is ASC’s out-of-school youth development program for high school students. The high school and college students’ exploration of the education system over the course of last summer is tracked in the 60-minute documentary.
The film also examines why the education system often fails to reach some of the most at-risk children in public schools and offers the arts as a solution for helping children find success personally and in the classroom.
“If you want to know what the arts can do in the lives of young people, this film tells the story,” Temple said. “It shows very clearly the power of the arts and how they can motivate our students to go to school, stay in school, graduate and move on to pursue a world of possibilities.”
Students in Studio 345 were not only the subjects of the film, but were also part of the film crew and created the music and art utilized in “Spiral Bound,” including the title track.
“Being able to participate in a real-world, community-based experience like this not only reinforces the skills these students learn in Studio 345, but it also empowers them to become active citizens and advocate for their own education,” Temple said. “It also provides them a new vantage point into the world of school and higher education.”
This is explored in the 60-minute documentary through not only through the local perspectives of the Studio 345 and Davidson College students, but through the national lens of arts education activists and experts that speak powerfully about the impact the arts can make in education – and the dire consequences of defunding arts programs.
“Our hope,” Temple said, “is that ‘Spiral Bound’ will become not only a national platform for the exploration of critical issues centered around equity, access and opportunity in public and higher education, but also an impetus for a call to action.”
The documentary was directed by Jason Winn, produced by Chris Blunt and co-written by Michael Buchanan, all of “The Fat Boy Chronicles,” the 2010 film that revealed the emotionally painful world obese teens experience in the face of a thin-obsessed society.
Tickets to the Charlotte world premiere of “Spiral Bound” are $10 adults and $8 students and are available at CarolinaTix.org. Tickets to the Davidson premiere event are $10 adults and $5 students and available at Davidson.edu/the-arts/ticket-office.
For more information about the documentary, visit www.spiralboundmovie.com.