Sharing culture through creativity in Connecticut

By: | August 24, 2017

An innovative arts program in Connecticut allows students to study art alongside visiting Chinese students and collaborate in ways that allow a deeper appreciation for art from both cultures.

The 2-year-old program is run by a magnet high school in New Haven, the Area Cooperative Educational Services Educational Center for the Arts (ACES ECA), which has partnered with China’s Ministry of Education.

ACES International will host four highly qualified English-speaking arts students from Beijing, Shanghai, and Ningbo, for the 2017-18 school year, Principal Jason Hiruo says. The students will live with host families, attend academic classes in the morning, and join Connecticut students at ACES in the afternoon for arts.

First model program

ACES is the first public high school to be recognized by China’s Ministry of Education as a model program for exceptional high school arts students, says Hiruo.

In addition to providing a unique experience for the Chinese students, the program allows the American students to experience Chinese language and culture through traditional art forms like dance and painting, Hiruo says. “The exchange programs prioritize the natural connection between culture and the arts” says Hiruo.

Organizations such as the Asia Society have been building international ties by acting as the liaison between schools in the U.S. and China. Hiruo says he developed a relationship with the Chinese Education Ministry on his own during several trips to China.

The ACES school draws about 300 students from 27 high schools across Connecticut. Students attend their local school in the morning for core academics and then are bused to ACES in the middle of the day for instruction in music, dance, visual arts, creative writing and theater.

A college-campus atmosphere infuses the school’s three buildings, with a coffee shop next door and outdoor seating. Hallways in the buildings are lined with student artwork, and there is space for dance studios as well as collaborative roundtables for discussions on creative writing.

ACES plans to expand the international exchange program to Spain, Germany, Japan and Australia. ACES International is expected to grow in size, but not exceed 20 students to maintain a personalized learning environment, says Hiruo.

See more information about the exchange program by visiting the ACES website.

Amanda Martinez is a student intern for DA.