leaf blog
 Easel Rider Ignites Creative Spark for ALL AGES

The Easel Rider, LEAF's mobile art lab, has been rolling all over Asheville this summer from festivals like All Go West, Toubab Krewe's Carnivalito and Downtown After Five to Nature Camps like Eco Explorers. Every Wednesday in the summer, the Easel Rider brings both a performing and visual artist to share their LEAF style in Pritchard Park. There's LEAFy music, dancing and art, what more could you ask for in a summer night or as one participant exclaimed,                                           

"We get to do this every week...(squeealll)" --6 year-old girl, Pritchard Park


While the Easel Rider's visual arts activities attract many children, adults have really found a place to express their creativity too. Adults have come up to the Easel Rider tent to help their children and it launched their own creative explosion. One woman and her sister brought her 3-year old son up to make Mexican Dancing Dolls during World Dance Night at Pritchard Park.  She proudly announced,

"I was just going to help him. Now look at me getting all into this art thing.             Ooo I love this."   -- Adult Participant, Pritchard Park

Then she started to add onto the original instructions and other participants imitated her ideas in their projects. The intergenerational nature of these ARTful events makes the Easel Rider fun for the whole family!!!  Easel Rider will be all over Asheville all summer but especially at Pritchard Park every Wednesday 5-7pm!!!

June 5, 2014
SUCCESS STORY: Chasya Finds Expression through Belly dance

LSSBurtonStChaChaPosewebEHLSSBurtonStChaChawebEHChasya has discovered a new favorite form of expression, belly dance. “When I’m dancing, I feel like I can express myself.” She has enjoyed learning “this new kind of dance” in her LEAF Schools & Streets program with teaching artist, Lisa Zahiya at the Burton Street Community Center.


At the core of LEAF Schools & Streets programs are talented teaching artists dedicated to serving as positive adult role models for youth in the community. Studies find that cultivating a safe space with supportive adults encourages students to try new things, make mistakes, express individuality, and care for others in a positive way. “Me and Miss Lisa get along really well” shares Chasya. “I like how she taught me belly dance and other types of dances.” Lisa is an award-winning performer, in-demand instructor and successful dance studio owner based in Asheville, and has been working with kids in LEAF Schools & Streets programs since 2008. “I want them to have moments of pure joy in their day when they are dancing” LSSLisaLDemonstratesEHwebexplains Miss Lisa.

As a younger child, Chasya took ballet. Now, “the only dance I take is with Miss Lisa” through the LEAF Schools & Streets program. “I’ve been practicing how to roll my belly and got really good at that, too.” Lisa has encouraged Chasya to become more involved in dancing, and attend classes at her studio in downtown Asheville.

Good role models make lifelong impressions on children, and maximize the chances of youth growing up with good consciences and finely developed moral reasoning and life skills. Lisa has inspired Chaysa to make dance an important part of her life. “I want to keep dancing – it would be good to do in school. I feel happy when I dance; the happiest place is when I dance.”



May 29, 2014
Hip-Hop Grooves & Breakdancing Moves at Enka Middle
From the eyes of Teaching Artist, Otto Vazquez

LSSEnkaTomyChailynKaelynIn May, I continued my Hip Hop Dance course with the YMCA program through LEAF Schools & Streets. Our small group of dancers had an amazing time at the LEAF Festival. Unfortunately, not all our kids could make the festival for various personal reasons, but my core group arrived and they did an amazing job! They performed their routine better than I expected. Seeing that some of them were so shy at the beginning of our program, to finally be out there in front of 65-75 spectators, and do so well, was awesome. I was able to see them proverbially “break out of their shells” and everyone ranted and raved about them.

During our sessions in May, we worked on Break Dancing Basics. I taught them a six step (foot work pattern) that we drilled endlessly, with a “go-down” combination with a move called the “Cork Screw.” Then, we had a couple of classes in basic Acrobatics (They learned a cartwheel & one girl learned a LSSEnkaLEAFPosesround off – some of them trained their bridges etc.) Then we finished the year by going over all the popular “Line Dances” like: The Wobble, The Cupid Shuffle, Missippi Stomp, Cha Cha Slide, and I also made them harder by introducing different moves to go along with the regular steps.

On our last day we had a “Pizza Dance Party” where we listened to music, ate pizza, talked about the program, played “Freeze Dance” and did all kinds of fun, dance related activities. I asked them to make anonymous statements about what they enjoyed about my class. I received lots of funny and great comments. Here's a few I thought were hilariously cute: "I learned how to keep calm and enjoy dancing" and "I learned dance moves and got over stage fright, it was fun!!!"

One of my focus factors during the class was self esteem and breaking them free of stage fright and being scared, or too nervous. I tried to influence self confidence for their performances and I am happy them adapted my teachings and commented on it!

April 30, 2014

Billy Jonas Inspires 3 Communities with Song!

LSSBillyJonasNBMSBillyGuitarCY 640x427Connecting Local Cultures and Communities through Music

This spring, locally-based and well-loved performing artist, Billy Jonas, is working with three different community organizations in Asheville through LEAF Schools & Streets. Jonas is teaching young singers from North Buncombe Middle School, the YWCA, and members of the Congregation of Beth Ha-Tephila to find their voices and expression through song. This triple residency will culminate with all three groups performing together at the LEAF Festival on Saturday, May 10.

“I love supporting LEAF because I believe so much in what they do,” Billy Jonas said at the Asheville Earth Day performance.

Jennifer J. Anderson, the Music Specialist at North Buncombe Middle School, is thoroughly enjoying participating in the residency, “I love being a part of a program that acts local, but links up with people all over the world.  LEAF shares my beliefs of outreach to others using music!”

Through this project, students are empowered by working with a notorious performing artist. “Our students here at the YWCA Afterschool have always enjoyed music, songs, and beats. We are excited to be working with Billy Jonas, a well-known children's artist, who creates fun in his songs!” shared Cici Weston, the Director of YWCA’s School Age Programs.

LSSBillyJonasYWCAGuitarKidsEngagedEHAll three groups involved are consciously engaging youth in diverse experiences to open their eyes to the world around them.

An award-winning artist, Billy Jonas is a singer-songwriter, percussionist and multi-instrumentalist who is well-known for his family-friends shows and music. He encourages all people to find and explore their inherent musical abilities. In addition to being a talented performer, Billy Jonas is dedicated to serving youth in the community and enjoys working with different faith communities. “I believe in making music as accessible as possible to others, regardless of whether or not someone sees themselves as a musician. Using these instruments is a window in – it offers a feeling of ‘I can do that!’” shared Jonas.

This special project is connecting cultures and bringing youth from different environments together. “The major impact is broadening their horizons by interacting with people from our area with different backgrounds,” said Anderson.

Don’t miss the final collaborative performance at the LEAF Festival on Saturday, May 10. Tickets are available at theLEAF.org or by calling 828.68.MUSIC [686-8742].

March 14, 2014

SUCCESS STORY: Delta House youth find Inspiration from UNCA Jazz Students

LSSUNCAJazzGroupPhotoLEAF Schools & Streets youth are finding inspiration through live performance. Students at Delta House were encouraged by a special performance by the UNCA Scholarship Jazz Sextet. These aspiring musicians performed for all students in the after-school program and introduced them to jazz. “Anything live where they can visually see and hear it is such a great way for students to experience music and jazz. To be able to see and experience is so important,” noted Sheila, a staff member at Delta House.

Delta House is the location of LEAF Schools & Streets’ premier youth jazz program. This LEAF Delta Jazz Band is comprised of a group of young students, all dedicated to learning the art of jazz. The band meets three times a week with their Teaching Artist, Gary Bradley. Through consistent practice, the jazz group has experienced much success. In March 2013, the group was invited by Grammy award-winning Preservation Hall Jazz Band to travel down to New Orleans and perform at the historic Congo Square Festival.

LSSUNCAJazzBassandSaxweb“This concert was like a mentoring step, especially for our Jazz students,” shared Sheila. “These are young people actually doing it, what the next step for our kids could be. They are a successful group; it was very encouraging to see.” Performing for the kids was an enriching experience for the Jazz students as well, “my students got a lot out of that experience” noted Dr. Brian Felix, Jazz Professor at UNCA. The UNCA Jazz Students serve an important role in providing a positive example for the aspiring young artists, as well as any students interested in pursuing some form of higher education.

Ending with Nina Simone’s “I wish I Knew how it would feel to be Free,” the UNCA Sextet left Delta House students with an inspiring message. The uplifting gospel/jazz encourages listeners with the messages of perseverance and freedom to dream.

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