The City of Sarasota Presents the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
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Teaching Artists

Local teaching artists, trained through the Van Wezel Education Department, team with teachers to develop and co-teach, through arts integration. As defined by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:

in which students
construct and demonstrate
through an
Students engage in a
an art form
and another subject area
and meets
in both.

Judith Levine

Judy Levine is a Teaching Artist in Sarasota middle and high schools and leads sequential professional development workshops for area artists entering the Van Wezel’s training program. She assists them with developing lesson plans which integrate their art form into the classroom curriculum, instructs on the connections to the Standards, and assessment and evaluations to meet objectives. She is coordinator of Teacher Connection at Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ., the teacher professional development program that provides educators with resources to teach science more effectively. In addition, Judy has traveled throughout the world photographing and giving seminars for Elderhostel. She worked with orangutans in Borneo at Camp Leakey tracking their nightly nests and collecting hair samples for DNA documentation. She teaches at the University of South Florida and gives art seminars through her business, Phoenix Art Workshops.


Brenda Smoak

Brenda Smoak is one of twenty National VSA Teaching Artist Fellows. She is a visual artist who specializes in community building residencies and often engages local businesses and artisans in her projects. Using a myriad of materials and techniques, she creates unique art experiences while seamlessly integrating the curriculum into the lesson. Her most sought after residency involves having students plot out and paint a mural, build a waterfall and plant a garden. In the process of creating this permanent outdoor installation, students learn math, science, literary, and 21st Century life skills. “I believe in fostering opportunities to build self-esteem, promote social justice, and ecological awareness in each of my residencies,” she says.

Brenda’s flexibility to work with individuals of all ages and abilities has provided her the opportunity to work in schools, community centers, hospitals, and at-risk facilities. She has taught at the Smithsonian Institution, public, private and charter schools, as well as local businesses and nonprofits. Brenda is also a freelance writer, blogger and social media expert. She presents webinars in a variety of curriculum-related areas and is helping form the first Florida Teaching Artists Association. Listed on EdExploreSRQ as an Artist in Schools for Sarasota County, she is one of 30 Teaching Artists selected by the Kennedy Center to attend its National Teaching Artists Seminar this summer in Washington, DC.


Mary J. Kelly

Once upon a time there was..or was not? Welcome to the world of storytelling. Mary J. Kelly tells personal, historical and fictional stories from the African-America Diaspora; Harriet Tubman’s Journey to freedom, stories about familiar friends in near and faraway places; Grandmother Oak tells Woody stories; Brer Rabbit finds trouble; a goat and tiger become best of friends; and many more fascinating characters. These stories play a very real part in our shared journey to explore our world, to discover the story from within and to just have fun.

Mary’s Arts Integration Residency program is designed as an enhancement to the State Common Core Standards. Mary aims to cultivate students’ imagination, creativity and confidence, by engaging them in hands-on, activity-based classroom sessions. The sessions consist of many short, energizing activities; interactive theatre games; word and number games; story mapping and journaling; to teach students the storytelling process. The program objectives are to enhance the artistic, educational, creative and social development of students grades PreK through 12.


Laura Courter

Laura Courter, brand new to Florida, has degrees in Dramatic Art and English Education from the UNC-Chapel. She has been working in educational theatre for 25 years with her focus on Creative Drama and Writing. She was the Managing Director of StageWorks Theatre, a professional touring children's theatre and managed a summer theatre camp program in North Carolina.  She has instructed students from age 3 through adults and directed over 400 children's theatre productions. She is excited to be a part of the Classroom Connections program at the Van Wezel.