Arts education is an integral component of the daily experiences of Ricks Center students. Specialist teachers in art, drama, and music provide experiences for students that supplement and go beyond the normal school curriculum. These instructors are experts in their fields and are practitioners of their profession as well as teachers of children. Specialists strive to create new understandings by teaching the structure of their discipline. The teachers frequently serve as consultants in classrooms where a specific need for the expertise has been identified and provide for older students elective opportunities that meet the needs and passions of those students.
In response to the aesthetic needs of gifted young people, the Music Program at Ricks Center provides a variety of musical experiences that are integrated both into specific thematic units and into all-school productions. Since music enhances quality of life in every domain, music personnel are consistently available to help create meaningful synthesis between academic subject matter and the many aspects of music. Not only is music offered in light of its aesthetic contribution, but the historical terms and precise mathematical terms of the technical elements of music (such as rhythm and interval) are incorporated into the integrated lessons. Another aspect covered is movement to music. Moving to music is a fundamental process. Through eurhythmy, children learn cognitive and motor skills. They do exercises that focus on movement, rhythm and direction. They learn to relax and explore new ways to move, developing abstract thinking and spatial relations awareness. On a social level, they learn to work cooperatively with each other. The Music Program seeks to provide an environment in which an individual's emotional involvement with music can joyfully and intuitively merge with theoretical understanding of the structure of music. Music composition instruction is offered to enhance the above theoretical factors.
The mission of Ricks Center's Visual Arts Program is to provide children with opportunities for exploration and to provide a means of personal communication and expression. The goal of this program is to respond to the developmental stages of children and their art by facilitating their progress through developmentally appropriate art activities that advance and enhance their experiences in art. By increasing children's visual awareness of the world around them, the instructor strives to foster creative self-expression, individuality, and self-confidence by providing in-depth experiences and personal reflection. Children are encouraged to spontaneously respond and experiment as they express themselves in many forms of art, enabling them to see the connections between disciplines and to learn ways of communicating through art. Ricks Center's Arts Program is concerned with four areas of art that include aesthetics, art history, art criticism, and art production. The Art Program strives to provide children with knowledge and application of materials, techniques, and processes. Students are offered opportunities to relate visual arts to history and culture. Lastly, children are encouraged to analyze and assess the characteristics, merits, and meaning of works of art.
The Theater Arts Program provides learning experiences for all students, with special opportunities for children who demonstrate talent and/or interest in theater. Equally important, students gain experience that will prepare them to become educated consumers of the arts. Through unit study, students participate in writing scripts, creating and rehearsing unit shows, role playing, designing scenery for their classrooms, performing, developing expressive reading skills, learning observation skills, and presenting complex productions at unit celebrations. Through the Primary years, students may also participate in production of scripted plays and musicals. Upper School students accept major roles in all-school productions and perform in united-related dramatic productions. Drama classes are offered through the school both during the school day and as optional, after-school activities. Students participate in creative dramatics, pantomime, movement, improvisational acting, choral reading, production of scenes from classic and contemporary dramatic literature, scene design, and costuming.
Finally, artists in the community supplement Ricks Center faculty's expertise to expand the range of training in the dramatic arts for students. Faculty in-service sessions with professional dancers, improv performers and theater professors at the University model ways to integrate theater into classroom learning experiences. Teachers have enlisted professional performers to work with students in planning and rehearsing productions. For example, an expert in African dance and music worked extensively with a Primary class's interpretation of their culminating performance for a unit on Africa. An Indian dancer choreographed and taught dances from each region in India as a part of an Indian unit. An artist-in-residence taught tumbling, juggling, and hula-hooping to Primary students studying Cirque du Soleil.