By SURINA NATH
Kimberley Junior Public School teacher Kate Cullen was presented with the 2019 Arts Champion Award by Prologue to the Performing Arts earlier this month.
Prologue to the Performing Arts, one of Ontario’s largest performing art education organizations, is fostering artistic culture in schools on Toronto’s east end and across Ontario.
Cullen was presented with the award on June 5.
“She began her career as an art teacher almost 27 years ago,” Prolouge Executive Director Tim Whalley explained. “Part of the reason Kate has won the award is because she gives the students a voice, helping them gain leadership skills within the arts.”
Cullen also started the Prologue Club, a space where students have the opportunity to have the decision-making power to choose the artists they want to see in their schools.
Founded in 1966, Prologue brings performing artists into schools and communities across Ontario. With 1,800 performances and workshops reaching more than half a million young people each year, Prologue works alongside 38 artist companies ranging from spoken word, dance, puppetry, storytelling and more.
“Prologue was founded because students weren’t offered opportunities to experience arts performances at theatres or other venues due to distance or cost; there’s still certain barriers for students and educators today” Whalley said.
The organization now brings high-quality professional experiences to local schools, with an emphasis on artistic quality and education content, closely aligning with teachers’ learning objectives.
With performances from companies such as Red Sky Performance, Brittany B, Cadence, and Fana Soro; Prologue gives children an accessible way to explore meaningful ideas and topics outside of the classroom.
Students have the chance to interpret content after their performance as well. “We have Study Guide where students can ask questions and learn how a given performance relates to their classroom studies,” Whalley said.
The non-profit organization subsidizes the cost of performances in under-served communities with their initiative called The Possibility Fund where each dollar raised at their annual fundraiser in November goes directly to brining artist into schools.
Prologue continues to partner with school boards such as the Toronto District School Board, addressing art education cost barriers.
Whalley has worked in the arts and not-for-profit sector for more than 15 years with different organizations such as Luminato, the Canadian Stage and Scarborough Arts.
“I feel very fortunate to be in this role,” he said. “I’m passionate about arts education and believe in empowering young people through the arts.”