(From left) Arts Council of Fairfax County president and CEO Linda Sullivan, Cappies international chair Jane Strauss, Cappies international and program director Judy Bowns and Arts Council Chairman Joe Ritchey pose after recognizing the Arts Education Award.
Photo by Tim Peterson.
After Bill Strauss first approached Judy Bowns about creating a student-driven arts awards and journalism organization 16 years ago, the ensuing creative partnership resembled a pair of cartoon characters.
“We called ourselves Wallace and Gromit,” said Bowns, now international and program director for the Critics and Awards Program (Cappies of the National Capital Area) as well as a Fairfax County Public Schools theater resource teacher. “Wallace, the idea man, and then there would be this follow up phone call of, ‘So how do we do this?’”
What developed was a comprehensive theater education program that involves the entire cast of performers, technicians, musicians and dancers, as well as peer critics who attend performances and write reviews.
Cappies received the Arts Education Award on Oct. 24 at the third annual Arts Awards of the Arts Council of Fairfax County. They were recognized along with other area arts leaders at the Fairview Park Marriott Hotel in Falls Church.
“The award really recognizes the students we serve, the students that drive this program,” said Bowns. “Just the acknowledgment of this, it really means a lot to us.”
In the greater Washington area (the organization has spread to Canada) around 3,200 public, private and homeschooled students from Fairfax County, Fairfax and Falls Church participate in the Cappies program. This school year 50 performances will be eligible for awards.
Ultimately, student journalists select winners in a range of categories for an annual awards show held at the Kennedy Center concert hall.
“We're like the Tony Awards,” said Bowns, “with a lot less jewelry but a great deal more noise.”
“The quality of the program, its integrity, rests on the shoulders of the kids,” said Cappies international chair Jane Strauss. “It means that we trust these students to write well, produce well, to be responsible. And the kids rise to the occasion.”
Chip Rome, former long-time theater teacher at Robinson Secondary School and Cappies steering committee member, was present to support Bowns and Strauss.
“There’s an educational value to the artists seeing each other's works,” he said. “They really travel far and wide and see a variety of schools with different resources, skill sets, directors, visions. It inspires them and reinforces what they've been hearing from their home school teacher.”