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Dispatch band members, volunteers transform Boston Arts Academy

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  October 9, 2012 06:41 PM

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(Photo by Phyllis Bretholtz for Boston Arts Academy)

Chad Stokes and Brad Corrigan of Dispatch perform with Boston Arts Academy students James Doran, Leshawn Harris, Owen LiPuma, and Harrison Smith Saturday. The band's non-profit Amplifying Education worked with City Year and Boston Public Schools to repaint the school.

Boston Arts Academy students arrived at a much brighter and more vibrant school building this week after more than 200 volunteers, teachers, and fellow classmates, and one rock band gave the school’s walls a makeover Saturday.

The independent rock band Dispatch, along with City Year Boston and Boston Public Schools, organized a one-day volunteer event to paint more than 40 classrooms, four floors of hallways, and the cafeteria of Boston Arts Academy.

The school, which shares a building with Fenway High School, is the city’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts, and its gray walls had not been painted since it opened 15 years ago.

"A lot of it is about the way that it looks, but it is also about creating that atmosphere and showing students that there are people from all over the city, there are bands who care,"
said Ursala Neuwirth, a City Year Boston volunteer. City Year helped organize the event and its volunteers have been working daily in classrooms across the city.

Anne Clark, a founding teacher who became headmaster this year, said she asked the students what she should do for the school. Make it look like an art school, they said.

“It’s such an exciting, vibrant, joyful place, and they want the walls to look like that, too,” Clark said as volunteers armed with rollers, brushes, paint cans, and pizza hurried around the room.

The school was being painted yellow to represent the arts academy, blue to represent Fenway High, and green to represent their common areas, such as the computer lab and assembly hall. Other colors were used to designate different arts departments.

“We teach our students as art students that artists should give back to the community, and Dispatch is really setting a wonderful example,” Clark said.

Joining the effort to transform the school was not unusual for the band.

Its three members founded a non-profit, Amplifying Education, to encourage volunteers to take on simple actions to help improve schools and support education. The campaign and works with the Calling All Crows non-profit to organize tour projects and over the last year it has worked with more than 600 fan volunteers working nearly 4,000 hours to improve schools in North America and Europe.

The band has also collected more than 10,000 donated books for Better World Books and has raised more than $250,000 to support local organizations.

“It’s sort of that idea that small actions add up to make a big difference,” said Jen Hallee, the executive director of Calling All Crows.

On this tour, the band has already participated in school improvement projects in Denver, Chicago, and New York.

"We just feel like it's our responsibility as people who get in front of a lot of other people to kind of shed light on the stuff the media can often times forget," said Chad Stokes of Dispatch, who lives in Jamaica Plain.


(Photo by Phyllis Bretholtz for Boston Arts Academy)

More than 200 students and community volunteers joined the band Dispatch to repaint Boston Arts Academy Saturday.

The band was in town to perform at Agganis Arena Saturday night and its members had had just woken up after travelling overnight from a New York show when they arrived at the school.

"We see school at the center of community, so if the school is thriving hopefully the community is thriving," said Dispatch's Brad Corrigan.

The two chatted with volunteers, pitched in with painting, and performed with Boston Arts Academy students. The band's third member, Pete Francis, could not make the event.

"So often the first things that get cut are special needs programs and art programs so to see a place like this that's thriving with students dedicated to the arts is really special and gives us such hope," said Stokes.

Stokes and Corrigan said they have been to schools across the country and hoped that both the state and federal governments can work to address schools' unique needs.

Education, they said, seemed to be the lowest common denominator in addressing many other problems.

"If we dont want the world to be a more violent, if we dont want prisons to be so jam-packed...all that stuff really flows back to when youre a kid," said Corrigan.


(Photo by Phyllis Bretholtz for Boston Arts Academy)

Chad Stokes and Brad Corrigan of Dispatch talk to a City Year volunteer during the repainting of Boston Arts Academy Saturday.

Twitter: @YTFenwayKenmore

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