“I love staying connected to where I first fell in love with ballet,” said Megan Wright, ballet instructor at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St. Wright, a Beverly/Morgan Park native and now a resident of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, took her first dance classes at the BAC when she was a child. The love of dance fostered at the BAC led Wright to study with Ballet Chicago, the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theater. She danced professionally with several companies including the Los Angeles Ballet.
Wright has been teaching and choreographing at the BAC since 2008, using her experience in dance study and performance to lead classes of all levels for children and adults. This fall, she is among 36 BAC instructors who will be teaching more than 125 classes in a wide variety of visual and performance arts.
For most of the BAC’s 50-year history, its popular School of the Arts has been providing quality arts education to students at all skill levels. Instructors are required to have a degree in the discipline in which they are teaching, and most of them also have professional experience in their field. Registration for fall classes is in progress and the session begins the week of Sept. 10.
Like Wright, BAC Music Coordinator Prentice Johnson attended the BAC as a child, first singing with the Chicago Children’s Choir and later taking private piano lessons. Remembering her own experience informs Johnson’s appreciation for leading the BAC’s music education program and as an instructor. “It’s exciting to be in on the beginning phase of children’s music experiences and to see their talent develop as they grow,” Johnson said. “The BAC is a great place to do that.”
Johnson joined the BAC School of the Arts staff in 2009, and teaches private violin and group strings classes in addition to overseeing the music curriculum. She has seen the BAC’s music offerings expand to include a wide variety of instruments and skill levels. The BAC’s solid music program and outstanding opportunities to gain performance experience have enabled many of Johnson’s students to be accepted into top music institutes including the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and Juilliard School in New York.
This fall, the BAC expects between 600 and 700 students to enroll in classes in music, dance, visual arts, film and theater arts. Theater students age 5 to 18 will perform in a full scale production of “Oliver.” New classes include Jazz Funk which blends jazz dance with hip hop, Intro to ukulele, playwriting, Folk Arts and Crafts, and book arts. Jeremy Handup recently joined the faculty as film coordinator and will be offering new film classes; he earned his BFA in Photography/Video from Cornell University and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Visual Arts Coordinator Jake Saunders is a professional artist whose prints and drawings are shown in galleries nationally and internationally. Saunders received a BFA in printmaking from Ball State University (Indiana) and MFA in studio art from the University of Connecticut. His first experience with the BAC was as the winner of the Alice and Arthur Baer Award in the 2017 BAC Arts Competition and Exhibition. He has been on the BAC School of the Arts faculty for nine months and recently moved to Beverly/Morgan Park.
Saunders’ focus for the visual arts program is providing “Serious classes for people who are serious about learning.” He is strengthening the visual arts curriculum with more classes in art fundamentals and opportunities to build skills, including new painting and drawing classes.
Registration for the BAC School of the Arts fall session continues through the week of Sept. 10. For people who want to stretch their creative experience without committing to an eight-week class, the BAC will offer two dozen short term Pick and Choose classes later in the session. Schedules and registration are available at the BAC, 2407 W. 111th St., or online at www.beverlyartcenter.org. For more information, call 773-445-3838.