Youth and Wisdom Meet

Kaniah Browne dances in a demonstration class under the direction of CCSA dance Director/Choreographer Ali Willingham.

Kaniah Browne dances in a demonstration class under the direction of CCSA dance Director/Choreographer Ali Willingham.

Last week, James Brown was heard for perhaps the first time over the auditorium sound system at Kendal at Longwood. The Godfather of Soul provided the soundtrack for one of the original dance pieces presented by 28 dancers from the Chester Charter School for the Arts as part of the celebration of the retirement community’s five-year partnership with CCSA.

“Building Bright Futures” brought together dozens of young artists from the groundbreaking public school with 125 residents of Kendal-Crosslands Communities, many of whom were pioneering donors long before CCSA opened its doors in 2012. The dance performance, art show and reception opened a two weeks celebration of the partnership, which will be capped off by a panel discussion on Monday, March 13.

Peggy Brick and Elsa Lichtenberg were instrumental in bringing CCSA to Kendal, and vice versa. Elsa, former longtime librarian at the Swarthmore Public Library, recalls attending free concerts presented at Swarthmore College by the Chester Children’s Chorus under Dr. John Alston, who first envisioned the creation of CCSA. She and her husband Philip began to donate toward establishment of the school. More recently, they’ve raised money for easels and helped establish a library program at CCSA. In the course of her support, Elsa says, “I’ve been able to visit the school several times. It gives me hope for the future.”

CCSA 10th graders (left to right) India Linder, Tahmir Lamb, and Kwaadera Blackwell talked music and movement with Kendal resident and former Swarthmorean Lelia Calder.

CCSA 10th graders (left to right) India Linder, Tahmir Lamb, and Kwaadera Blackwell talked music and movement with Kendal resident and former Swarthmorean Lelia Calder.

Both Peggy and Elsa cite Kendal resident Marjean Willet as an early advocate of the relationship between the two communities, organizing visits to the school’s current location in Aston. Peggy says the school sold itself: “It’s such a giving place — just bubbling with enthusiasm — and so different from the ‘failing inner city schools’ we are always hearing about.” Students, too, learn from the intergenerational interaction, Peggy said. “It’s nice to give kids a less isolated picture of what old people are like.”

The interaction was in effect at “Building Bright Futures.” Following the dance session, CCSA students matched up with Kendal residents to discuss the specific art forms and techniques where they have shared interests. Other Kendalites are organizing visits to the school for their neighbors, and taking a keen interest in the construction of the new CCSA building in Chester, which will open for the 2017-18 school year. For information on the project, the mission and opportunities to support CCSA, visit thechesterfund.org, e-mail Hillary Sorin at hsorin@thechesterfund.org, or call (610) 859-2988.

Elsa Lichtenberg will moderate a panel discussion at Kendal on arts integration in public education on Monday evening, March 13. The session promises to be a stimulating consideration of a topic made ever more crucial by increasing pressure on school systems to standardize curriculum, and diminished spending on arts in schools and government supported programs. Panelists include CCSA Head of School Akousa Watts and Dean of Arts Integration Mindy Nguyen; Marilyn Henkelman, retired Director of the Phebe Anna Thorne School at Bryn Mawr College; and Stacy Maria Dutton, Executive Director of Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia. Guests are encouraged to attend the program, which begins at 7:15 p.m. in Kendal’s auditorium.

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