JCCC Stories

Serving the Community through the Arts

November 13, 2017


Innovative Arts Education program puts JCCC on the map.

Angel Mercier knows students who have a positive experience on JCCC’s campus when they’re young are more likely to return when they’re ready to attend college.

As director of JCCC’s Arts Education program, Mercier oversees performing arts programs that reach nearly 13,000 people each year, from pre-K to adult. Half of the programs bring audiences to the Carlsen Center on campus and half are performed in community schools.

“We know if we get young people on site and give them an educationally enriching experience, it imprints positively on them. They realize they can go to college,” said Mercier. “And they believe this is a place where they could fit in when they see the diversity and activities on campus.”

Bringing the world to KC

The Carlsen Center team strives to provide equal access to the arts for all students by breaking down barriers such as language, culture and physical limitations. “No one brings more world culture into the metropolitan area than we do,” said Mercier.

Since 2000, the Carlsen Center has hosted more than 170 performing arts companies that represent world cultures. Two-thirds of the companies have engaged in master classes and workshops. For instance, when the Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles performed at JCCC, Mercier set up a customized workshop between the group and a middle school mariachi band in Kansas City, Kansas, with the famous Mexican singer Aida Cuevas.

To ensure JCCC continues to be an arts education leader, Mercier is always on the lookout for innovative programs in which she can involve pre-K-12 students. Recently, iLuminate, a nationally recognized group that combines glow-in-the-dark technology with dancers, was featured in the Carlsen Center Series.

Prior to their performance, the iLuminate group hosted a workshop for fifth-grade students interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program at their Olathe school. During this hands-on workshop, the students explored ways dance and technology come together to create a performance. “We know students are most impacted when they get to work with an artist face-to-face,” Mercier said. “We try to offer that to targeted students as often as we can where it makes sense.”

Successful partnerships

In addition to making the arts accessible and providing leadership, JCCC’s Arts Education develops community partnerships for longer-term programs with greater impact on students and teachers. The past year has had some big successes, including:

  • Creating a cross-state program with the Liberty, Missouri, school district under the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education program, which focuses on professional development in arts integration for teachers. JCCC is one of 100 Kennedy Center Partners in Education programs in the country and one of only two cross-state programs.
  • Planning and presenting the first Kansas and Missouri Arts Integration Symposium, a professional development conference for area teachers, held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
  • Launching the Kansas City SPROUTS program, a free, five-year music program for children age 3 and older at the Hiersteiner Child Development Center.
  • Collaborating with Purdue University on the first national study of the impact of a live performance on literacy. JCCC's Arts Education program secured 1,000 students in 13 area school districts to participate in the study.

When students attend a daytime performance at JCCC, teachers receive study guides to help them process the performance off-site with their students. They can go a step further with the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, which connects the performance with items in its collection. Additionally, JCCC Admissions provides a campus tour to the students to complete a day of activities at the college.

“Ultimately, we’re always looking for ways to tie in our campus with the community, asking ‘how does it position the college as a resource?’ We want to make sure all children have access to the arts, teachers are supported with new ways to connect the arts to curricula, and that we continue developing new strategic community partnerships,” said Mercier.

Affordable arts

JCCC students can attend Carlsen Center Series events for $5. Check out the upcoming season.

Additionally, students are invited to attend visiting artist master classes or workshops, as well as music programs weekdays at noon, all at no cost.