Geborah Joseph-Smith is among four USFSM students who will participate in this year's Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

USF Sarasota-Manatee students to take part in Smithsonian Folklife Festival

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: June 20, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 20, 2017) – It makes sense the Smithsonian Folklife Festival would invite Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory to this year’s circus-themed event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. More surprising is who’s joining the circus professionals for 10 days of performances, education and audience interaction: A group of USF Sarasota-Manatee students.

Keith Phillips, Jaime Hernandez Carranza, Dina Thelusma and Geborah Joseph-Smith will attend as guests of the Conservatory and the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT) at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

The two organizations arranged last year to pool resources after receiving an educational grant. Since then, the Center has sought to incorporate circus-related topics into its arts-integrated teaching.

Now, that partnership is attracting wider attention. Sarasota attorney Preston Scott, who collaborated with previous Folklife Festivals, contacted the groups several months ago about adding them to the lineup of performers, artists and historians.

Not only will the festival feature aerialists, jugglers and circus legends such as the Flying Wallendas, but it will also include an educational component. Patrons will receive a special insider’s look into how circuses evolved, their place in American history and how some acts were performed.

“As curator of the Circus Arts program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2017, I am always on the look-out for interesting and educational lenses through which our visitors might find new ways of seeing and understanding the festival’s activities, in this case the circus arts,” Scott said. “USFSM’s work with Circus Arts Conservatory regarding ‘circus science’ provides one such lens.”

The students, ambassadors of USFSM, will lead demonstrations and discussions about the science behind certain performances. For example, they might talk about a human cannonball in connection with Newton’s Laws of Motion or the nuanced art of tightrope walking in relation to gravity.

They’ll attend the festival in pairs with Phillips and Carranza participating through July 5 followed by Thelusma and Joseph-Smith.

Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, coordinator for the Center for PAInT, lauded the festival invitation as opportunity to spotlight USFSM and the work at the Center for PAInT.

“More than a million people will visit the mall and over 40 million will attend through media,” she said. “This is an excellent opportunity for USFSM and our students to reach other communities to express what arts-integrated instruction and the Center for PAInT are truly all about.”

When the students are not leading demonstrations, they’ll have an opportunity to tour museums, monuments and other sites. They might also catch up with family, as is the case of Joseph-Smith who has family in the metropolitan area. She said she might visit an older sister.

“I’m super excited about the opportunity to go,” she said.

Joseph-Smith recently returned from a month-long study abroad experience in Merida, Mexico. She said she’s looking forward to the talks, especially with children to “see how they react to the integration of arts and academics.

“I want to see those little light bulbs go off,” she said.

Also attending will be Dr. Davis-Cotton, Jay Riley, who oversees the ambassador program at USFSM, and Dr. Terry Osborn, interim regional chancellor at USFSM. The festival starts June 29.

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