Spiral Bound Documentary Addresses a Call for Action

CATHERINE O’DONNELL

Living Davidson Editor

The first campus screening of Spiral Bound, a documentary promoting the arts in schools, took place behind the doors of Duke Family Performance Hall last Thursday evening. With fliers picketed all over campus, the screening was popular and well attended upon my entrance. Seated around me was a dynamic mix of faculty, students, and members of the town of Davidson. Unbeknown to me during the viewing, I later found out that many of the film’s stars were seated amongst the crowd, enjoying their first look at the documentary.

The film began with an analysis of nationwide cuts in public schools’ arts programs. Dismal statistics set a somber tone of desperation that relayed the necessity of change. Numbers ran across the screen, displaying the 8300 dropouts per day and 1.5 million dropouts per year across the country. Featured in the documentary was Davidson College President, Carol Quillen, who commented on the need for change: “Our democracy cannot be sustained without every kid having access to a higher education.” The film’s protagonists, a group of eight creative high school students, described one horrific teacher-student story after another. The most memorable of those occurrences was that of a female student whose teacher forced her to squat in a seating position and balance two books in her hand if she answered a question wrong. This image conjured a vivid degradation that stuck with me throughout the film.

Together the eight students represented the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte (ASC), an initiative to restore arts and science programs in Charlotte area public schools. Inspired by Bill Strickland, the president of the Pittsburg based non-profit Manchester Bidwell Corporation, the students track their lives in Studio 345, a local outreach and after-school program. At Studio 345, students hone their digital media, photography, music, and printmaking skills, amongst many art and science initiatives. with the ability to pursue what makes them happy, students at Studio 345 are given tremendous personal leeway and choice in their studies.

Alongside the ASC, Davidson College Education Scholars spent the summer of 2013 in education workshops developing this activism for arts education. Together, the students from the ASC and the Education Scholars, traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to promote their agenda: pushing forward arts legislation in public schools. The documentary details the two groups’ adventures together, which ultimately led to their heartwarming friendships. From ropes courses with Davidson Outdoors to a formative, historic bus ride of Charlotte, both sets of students, despite a high school and college divide, blended together as one group of activists.

At the end of the screening, friends were reconnected and the overwhelming feeling of success that emanated from the Spiral Bound.

Maddie Smith ’15 described how well the film “got our message across” and how “amazing” it was to be a part of the process. The screening provided Maddie and her mentee Dustyn an opportunity to reunite and reflect on their journey together. With a closing song, written and performed by Studio 345 students, the documentary ends with the lyrics, “I refuse to be spiral bound.”

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