Fourth-grade students at W.T. Cheney Elementary School brought Pine Bluff Civil War history to the present on Tuesday in a program made possible through a collaboration with the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas and its Arts in Education program.

Fourth-grade students at W.T. Cheney Elementary School brought Pine Bluff Civil War history to the present on Tuesday in a program made possible through a collaboration with the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas and its Arts in Education program.

John Mitchell and Lori Walker presented the local history to the students and the information was turned into a script by April Gentry-Sutterfield, an Arkansas artist-in-residence. Gentry-Sutterfield teaches dramatic arts and worked with the fourth-grade teachers at W.T. Cheney for six weeks in order to prepare for the performance.

“The principal and fourth-grade teachers at W.T. Cheney Elementary truly embrace the concept of using the arts to teach core curriculum. The partnership we have begun to cultivate between W.T. Cheney and the Arts & Science Center has great potential,” Gentry-Sutterfield said.

Gentry-Sutterfield is a director, deviser and educator who uses theatre as a tool for social justice, education and community-engagement. Currently, she works with SafePlaces to develop pre-k through 12th grade programs that use theatre to explore bullying with students. To that end, she has collaborated with teachers from Eastside Elementary School in Cabot and Horace Mann Middle School in Little Rock to create developmentally appropriate three-day interactive workshops to facilitate students in defining bullying, investigating why we bully, and exploring how we can stop bullying.

She specializes in devised work — using collaborative movement and improvisation exercises to create original and adapted theatre. She has facilitated students in the process of devising at Hendrix College, Arkansas Governor’s School, and UT Connections Youth Theatre in Austin, Texas.

Gentry-Sutterfield has a master of fine arts degree in drama and theatre for youth and communities from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor of arts in theatre arts from Hendrix College.

“The fourth-grade teachers told me that the students loved working on the play and that the process of creating the production really helped to reinforce reading and other classroom subjects,” said Lenore Shoults, executive director of the Arts & Science Center.

The Arts in Education Program is funded in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The AIE program initiates new arts programs in schools and local arts agencies and enhances existing ones by providing direct interaction with working artists in residencies. Emphasis is on exposure to the creative process through direct contact with professional artists.

For more information about the Arts & Science Center’s Arts in Education program, call the center at 870-536-3375.