This year for Giving Tuesday, Bard on the Beach has decided to raise funds for the Bard Education Bursary Fund. Director of Education, Mary Hartman, shared her thoughts on the importance of arts education and the relevance of Shakespeare even in a modern age. Read on for more…
What is Bard Education?
People are familiar with Bard on the Beach – our annual Shakespeare festival in Vanier Park that draws more than 90,000 people each season. Fewer people know about our engagement with the community through Bard Education. We offer programs to schools, children, teens, youth and adults, and our mission is to inspire our community through dynamic, engaging experiences with the language, characters and plays of Shakespeare. Some of our programs are offered in the summer on our Festival site, others are in the off-season at our new administrative home, the BMO Theatre Centre. Still more are offered year-round throughout the Lower Mainland through partnerships with schools and community organizations.
How does the Bursary Fund work?
The Bursary Fund was established in 2009 by the Bard Volunteers to cover the fees for Young Shakespeareans from families of limited means. The Fund has grown over the years, making participation in a full range of Bard Education programs more accessible.
While we’re a not-for-profit organization ourselves, and rely on charitable contributions to cover our operating expenses, donations to the Bursary Fund are reserved only to cover applicants’ costs of participation in Bard Education programs. Any balance at the end of the year remains in the Fund for future use.
In 2015, the Bursary Fund covered fees for 14 Young Shakespeareans, supported 59 Bard in the Classroom workshops in 11 schools (reaching 955 students), and launched a brand new program, Bard in Your Neighbourhood, a partnership with community organizations that offers in-depth programming to disadvantaged youth at absolutely no cost. In 2015 we raised and distributed more than $19,000 through the Bursary Fund.
What effect has the opening of the BMO Theatre Centre had on the programming you’re able to offer?
The BMO Theatre Centre has not only given us a place to rehearse our plays, build our costumes and administer our organization, it’s given us a place to host new education programs. For example, we’re about to offer Young Shakespeareans Workshops on Saturdays during the school year, as well as during Spring Break. In January we begin a brand new program, Bard for Life, a recreational program in playing Shakespeare; it’s like Young Shakespeareans for grown-ups. We’re also able to expand our programming for theatre professionals, Bard Training, and there’s a general spirit of excitement and innovation and possibility now that we have this facility. The Bursary Fund makes it possible for us to keep all of this new programming accessible to more of our community, as we’re able to offer financial support.
How can Shakespeare have relevance to youth today, especially in a diverse community?
I love Shakespeare’s plays – I wouldn’t do this for a living if I didn’t! For me, the most powerful aspect of Shakespeare’s genius lies in the fact that he wasn’t writing realism. Instead, he wrote in way that’s infinitely open to interpretation – that’s why we’re still doing the plays after all this time – and he created characters that all of us can relate to, no matter what our background or cultural heritage. In 2013, Maya Angelou described her early sense that, “Shakespeare must be a black girl. How else could he know exactly how I felt?” It’s that idea, that each of us can find ourselves in Shakespeare (and find the Shakespeare in ourselves) that I find most exciting. Shakespeare writes about love, power, family, rivalry, friendship, loyalty – you name it. But he does it in an open, accessible way.
Why should people support Bard Education? Aren’t the arts a luxury?
There’s no question that basic needs come first – food, shelter, safety – but the arts are not frivolous, nor are they a luxury. They give us a sense of ourselves, celebrating our individuality and uniqueness. At the same time, they connect us to others, giving us a powerful sense of our shared humanity. This is backed up by academic research which shows less discrimination, higher tolerance for differences and more empathy in children who are educated in the arts. For a society to thrive, these are essential elements.
If you’re interested in supporting the Bard Education Bursary Fund, click here (http://bit.ly/1MQRFqu).
Share your photos, videos and stories with us from your time at Bard on social media by tagging us (@bardonthebeach) and using the hashtag #BardFamily!