Monday, March 30, 2015

P.A.S.S. - Yes! That's an Arts Council Program!

Do you have a child or grandchild whose class has taken a bus trip to Kirkland Fine Arts Center to see a show?  Maybe you remember doing this when you were a kid.  Those shows are presented through a Decatur Area Arts Council program called the Performing Arts Series for Students (PASS).  For more than 45 years, Kirkland Fine Arts Center, on the campus of Millikin University, has donated the use of the theater to the Arts Council for the PASS program.

This terrific program is designed to open doors to learning for children through the performing arts.  Each year, six high quality shows are chosen with young students in mind to ensure they will have an entertaining, educational experience.  Area teachers and home school groups can reserve seats for the shows that best suit the needs of their class at a cost of $4 per student.  DAAC also prepares a study guide for each performance that is sent to teachers a few weeks prior to the event to inspire thought and discussion before and after the show.

A big part of what makes PASS so special is that it provides an opportunity that many of the kids may seldom get...
  • the chance to see an entertaining and educational show
  • provided by professional performing artists
  • in a world-class theater
  • on a university campus.

How the PASS Program Began

The history of the PASS program goes back to the very beginnings of the Decatur Area Arts Council.  When DAAC was founded in 1967, its leaders decided that arts education would be the cornerstone of its mission.

Concerned about deepening cuts in school arts programs, board member Margaret Fassnacht encouraged the DAAC to develop a fine arts program for elementary school children.  Under the leadership of board president Louise Fathauer, what would become known as the Performing Arts Series for Students was conceived.  She would be pleased to know that it is still a popular and quality program more than 40 years later.

As construction on the Kirkland Fine Arts Center on the Millikin campus neared completion in 1970, community expectations ran high for the new facility.  It turned out to be the perfect venue for the PASS program and that partnership has endured to this day.

Four concerts were scheduled at Kirkland between October 1970 and March 1971, with performances by Millikin bands, choir, and the Millikin-Civic Orchestra.  Millikin University and the Symphony Guild of Decatur have continued this partnership by providing on-going talent and support for the PASS program.  Over the years, scheduled performing groups have grown to include elements of theatre, dance, history, and even science.

The cost to attend these first concerts was 35 cents per student and the Arts Council absorbed the cost for children who could not afford to attend.  In the past 40 years, the cost has risen to $4 per person, but the DAAC still provides for those who cannot afford to attend.  These attendance scholarships, as well as bus transportation scholarships, are made possible by generous support from community organizations like the Amherst Hardy Foundation, John Ullrich Foundation, Homefield Energy, ADM, and Tate & Lyle,

A special thanks to the vision of those early Arts Council leaders.

Jerry Johnson
Executive Director
Decatur Area Arts Council