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Ramsey County 4-H'ers gain performing experience through Arts-In

Singing. Dancing. Taking risks. Making friends. Building confidence. Creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Arts-In is 4-H performing arts program open to boys and girls of all ages. Participants create and learn a short musical, which they perform at individual county fairs and the state fair throughout the summer. While different county 4-H programs take different approaches to implementing Arts-In, the basic mission is the same: to give youth a performing experience that they won’t soon forget.

Cast of the production on stage 
Ramsey County 4-H is not new to the Arts-In scene. They were one of the first counties in the state to have an Arts-In program. However, in recent years, the program’s focus has been creating youth leaders by giving older youth the opportunity to be student directors. Student Directors are deeply involved in the decision-making and planning stages of the production, giving them an additional sense of ownership of what they are creating together.

In order to make the experience as memorable and valuable as possible for their participants, a live band and professional vocal director are priorities, but their available budget doesn’t always agree. In 2016, Arts-In leaders invited donors from the Minnesota 4-H Foundation to make a critical investment for the benefit of their youth. Their show, called Road Trip!, was performed daily at the Ramsey County Fair. The cast worked collaboratively to stage the musical revue, which was written by Julie Magnuson Heaton, a 4-H alum and current Arts-In director. "Throughout the rehearsal process our youth performers worked in small groups to choreograph the songs and then taught each other the choreography," said Magnuson Heaton.

Youth having fun back stage
Beth Fryxell is a youth member of Ramsey County 4-H. This past summer she served as one of the of student directors. "Our duties were to help lead rehearsals and warm ups. We also helped clean the stage and dressing rooms and things like that," said Beth. Offering student director roles to youth who have participated for three or more years in Arts-In is an important way of building leadership skills and challenging older participants to increase their contributions to the experience of others.

Looking ahead, Magnuson Heaton has already started to plan for the next year. Both Beth and Julie agree that the program was very successful in 2016 because the cast worked hard and were proud of what they created. "The show this year was super fun to perform! There were a lot of funny lines and cool dances," Beth said. Many new people signed up that had not been in 4-H before, and want to come back next year.

"I think 4-H is awesome because it’s a very supportive community for kids and adults," said Beth. She remembers being excited to be old enough to be in Arts-In when she was younger, because the program has a strong sense of community.

"My experience in the program gave me so much confidence. I learned leadership skills and reconnected with my love for theater," said Magnuson Heaton. She graduated from Hamline University with a double major in theater and education. Since then, she has worked with theater companies across the Twin Cities and was the theater director at Richfield High School for eight years. "None of that would have happened without the skills and confidence I gained through 4-H!"

Cast members engaging in warm-ups before a performance
Each spring the Minnesota 4-H Foundation distributes grants to 4-H clubs that engage youth in building critical life skills. We feature one grantee every month to celebrate wonderful ways Minnesota 4-H'ers are living out the 4-H Pledge.

Did you know that performing arts experiences in 4-H happens because of the generosity of donors like you? What sort of impact could your support have on youth who want to build confidence? Your gift could empower Minnesota youth to lead and succeed. They’re just waiting on you. Please give today.

By Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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