Online arts festival to feature the work of Valley middle and high school students

  • Mary Burt, a student at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, produced the graphic at right for the Jan. 16 virtual arts festival, which features the work of students from the region.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2021 1:30:24 PM

Musicians, actors, dancers and plenty of other professional artists in the Valley have dealt with all manner of hardship for nearly year now, as the pandemic has wiped out almost all opportunities for live performances.

COVID-19 has also taken a toll on aspiring young artists here, shutting down many opportunities for them to learn and build on their work.

But that doesn’t mean creativity comes to an end — so now the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School and the Shea Theater are hosting what they call a “Virtual Valley Multi-Arts Festival” to highlight the work of middle and high school students from throughout the region.

The streaming festival takes place Saturday, Jan. 16, beginning at 7 p.m. and will include “upwards of 75 students from all over the Pioneer Valley,” according to Emma Ayres, a PVPA theater teacher and the programming coordinator at the Shea Theater. That number includes students from Springfield, West Springfield, Westfield and other towns in Hampden County, as well as Franklin County communities (and Hardwick in Worcester County).

The show, which is expected to last about 2½ hours, will feature 18 separate performances, from music to poetry recitation to aerial acrobatics; there are also some comedy skits as well as visual art displays on tap, Ayres wrote in an email. Performances will last between about three and 10 minutes, she noted.

Ayres and Charlotte Donovan, PVPA’s director of enrollment and communications, say Saturday’s show is designed to showcase both the importance of the arts in general and the determination young people are showing in not letting the pandemic stop them from finding ways to express themselves or work with others.

PVPA student Arin Andrews, for instance, writes that working through the pandemic has made them “push the boundaries of what I thought was possible, and to look at the arts in a new way. Virtual meetings, livestream concerts, and weekly video releases were never something I envisioned for (live musical theater) ... and it has been extremely challenging but a unique experience that has taught me a lot.”

And Alex Wilga, another PVPA student who’s part of Saturday’s festival, notes that the show will ideally help demonstrate “that art hasn’t stopped just because we can’t safely go anywhere. We still produce art, possibly on an even larger scale now, despite a global pandemic.”

Tickets for the Multi-Arts Festival are $5 for individuals, $10 for a family; viewers can also make contributions if they want. Part of the proceeds will go to fund various nonprofit arts organizations in the Valley, according to PVPA.

Tickets can be ordered at

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