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   from the issue of September 21, 2006

Fine and Performing Arts, Extension partnership grows


A partnership between the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and UNL Extension has created fine arts programs at 4-H summer camps statewide.

THEATER INSTRUCTION - Mark Romano (right), a senior in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, leads students in an...
THEATER INSTRUCTION - Mark Romano (right), a senior in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, leads students in an improv game, "What Are You Doing?" at the Nebraska City theater camp in June. Photo by Kathe Andersen/Fine and Performing Arts.

The program - which exposes middle school-aged teens to theater, music and art - started after Jack Oliva, dean of Fine and Performing Arts, saw a need for the college to reach out and engage Nebraska communities.

"Being in a land grant school in a rural state, where you have lots of people who are distant (from the university campus), it occurred to me that this might be a good place to work on a project," Oliva said. "I thought when I came here it would be a wonderful opportunity to talk with the folks on East Campus in UNL Extension and see if they had some inclination to do this type of thing.

"I was overwhelmed by the fact that the dean of UNL Extension was like, 'Look, let's talk. We think this is a really good opportunity.'"

The conversation between Extension and Fine and Performing Arts started in the fall of 2002.

Both sides focused on putting together a project that would expose rural Nebraskans to the resources of the university, and the discussion turned to how the arts could be integrated into the 4-H summer program.

Allowing arts students to participate in residential 4-H camps - where teen participants stayed overnight at the camps - was the most logical idea, said Beth Birnstihl, associate dean of UNL Extension.

"The kids get to see new opportunities and career choices that they may not have thought about," Birnstihl said. "From the standpoint of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and Extension, it has opened up a whole new set of resources for both of us.

"Fine and Performing Arts has a lot of students who need internships and experiences, and we have a lot of communities who have young people who need to make new discoveries."

Fine and Performing Arts undergraduates also benefit as they teach the 4-H youth. Oliva said the program allows UNL students to learn how to communicate art through the teaching process.

"I had always thought we were missing a chance, especially in a land grant school, if we were not trying to find ways to get our kids involved in 'service learning,'" Oliva said. "With this program, we get them out there and put them in situations where they have to work with kids, teaching and communicating about their art. I believe that while all of them might not teach in a formal way when they get out of school, every artist has to be able to communicate with his or her audience."

The program started small, drawing three students in 2003. It grew to eight this summer, with hopes of further expansion in the future.

Oliva and Birnstihl said the main goal is to make the experience as positive as possible for the UNL students and camp participants. Oliva also said he wants the program to become a fixture in the college for years to come.

"I, personally as the dean, want this to be seen in our college as a program," Oliva said. "It isn't for credit, and it doesn't lead to a degree necessarily, but it's a program of things we do that's very important. And it's important that it be seen as a real collaboration between us and the agriculture college."

For more information on the 4-H summer camp program, go online to

Katelyn Kerkhove is a junior news-editorial major in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.



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