The Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center has hired its first director of education.
Cassie Rush, a playwright and performing arts instructor, will head up the Strand-Capitol's educational initiatives, including the organization's growing partnership with York City schools.
Ken Wesler, president and CEO of the Strand-Capitol, said he likes that Rush has experience working in a range of communities as a teacher and also has experience as an artist herself.
"We needed someone who is an artist first and a teacher second, but they needed to have those teaching chops," he said.
Rush received a bachelor's in theater and performance studies from Kennesaw State University in Georgia and a master's in educational theater from New York University. She worked as a teaching artist in New York City Public Schools, incarceration programs and community centers. She was a finalist for the Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwrights.
Wesler also looks forward to the entrepreneurial spirit Rush will bring to the program.
"If she doesn't have an opportunity, she makes one," he said.
Schools: The York City School District has contracted the Strand-Capitol to revive William Penn Senior High School's performing-arts program.
The Strand previously ran a similar program in partnership with New Hope Academy Charter School, which closed its doors at the end of the school year after a lengthy legal battle with the city school district over the renewal of its charter.
Wesler said New Hope handled most of the "infrastructure" of the program, like staffing.
Now that the contract is with York City schools, the Strand-Capitol is taking on staffing duties itself. That's why the theater created the educational directorship, Wesler said.
Rush, who started work earlier this month, will interview candidates for five arts education positions.
Right now, the Strand-Capitol is studying where gaps exist in arts education around York City.
"We're in the process of benchmarking — who needs what, and where?" Wesler said.
Based on that, Rush and company will start planning a curriculum, which Wesler said is a major challenge in itself.
"Scheduling a curriculum in a school is like navigating the D-Day invasion," he said.
When thinking about the goals for Rush in her new position, Wesler says it's important to understand the fundamental reasons why the Strand-Capitol has an arts education program in the first place.
"We're not trying to develop an audience," he said. "We're trying to bring the values that arts create to young people so they can better their lives."