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Charleston Gaillard Center Celebrates Engaging 100k Students and Honors Star Teacher of the Year

RELEASE DATE: September 15, 2022

In honor of National Arts in Education Week, the Charleston Gaillard Center announced that in the spring of 2022, its Education & Community Program welcomed its 100,000th student to the Gaillard Center. The Gaillard Center also announced the 2021-2022 Star Teacher of the Year, presenting Erin Bianco, a third-grade teacher at Mount Zion Elementary School on Johns Island, with the award for her dedication to integrating the arts into her classroom, even during the challenges presented during the pandemic.

Lissa Frenkel, President & CEO of the Charleston Gaillard Center, stated “The Gaillard Center’s robust education program has worked so well thanks to teachers like Ms. Bianco.” 

Since reopening in 2015, the Gaillard Center has served as the community’s largest classroom, providing access for Lowcountry students to experience world-class artists and performances without financial barriers. Through its Education & Community Program, the Gaillard has welcomed in students to engage with trained teaching artists, learn through innovative programs, attend performances, and participate in in-school programs designed to complement the state curriculum, allowing the students to expand their imaginations, stretch their limits, and experience live performing arts. 

Education & Community Program’s Impact 2015 - 2022 

Over six seasons, the Gaillard Center has presented 57 education performances. The 100,202 students from over 130 schools in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties have enjoyed premier artists inside the Martha & John M. Rivers Performance Hall. Chosen to correlate with the South Carolina Department of Education Standards, and inclusive of curriculum materials, the education performances for students included bringing children’s literature to the stage, with classics such as The Magic Treehouse, Don’t Let Pigeon Drive the Bus, and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day. Students have explored scientific principles through the magic of Bill Blagg and learned music theory through Grammy Award-winning artists like Ranky Tanky.

To ensure the Gaillard Center provides access to every student, Title 1 Schools receive free tickets and free bus transportation to education performances. 73% of students attending in the 2021-2022 season attended barrier free. Since launching the education program, the Gaillard Center has spent over $200,000 in the funding of 999 school buses. 

Gaillard educators also engage with students inside their own classroom. Using arts-enhanced lesson plans, the Gaillard’s Education team provides free in-school, pre and post performance workshops that prepare students for what they will see, introduce the content, tie it to the classroom curriculum, and explore the themes and content through art. Since 2015, the Gaillard has conducted 947 workshops inside the community’s schools

Additionally, the artist-in-residence program, one of the cornerstones of the Gaillard Center, connects students with local artists to inspire the next generation and deepen students’ understanding of the process of creating work. Gaillard Artist-in-Residence Emeritus, Grammy Award winner, and member of Ranky Tanky, Charlton Singleton has taught in 80 schools and reached over 14,457 students. Artist-in-Residence Emeritus and Charleston poet laureate, Marcus Amaker has reached 4,006 students through his poetry workshops. 

Star Teacher of the Year Award

On Friday, September 16, the Gaillard Center celebrated not only the 100,000 students it has reached, but also the teachers it has partnered with by presenting its 2021-2022 Star Teacher of the Year Award to Erin Bianco, a third-grade teacher at Mount Zion Elementary School on Johns Island

This past school year, educators were faced with many challenges as the global pandemic continued to interrupt traditional classroom learning. Erin Bianco worked diligently to plan a mini-arts residency for her students and colleagues. Ms. Bianco organized field trips to the Charleston Gaillard Center so her students would have the opportunity to experience the live performing arts. She also served as a liaison, modeling and encouraging her teammates to invite the arts into their own classrooms. 

Stephanie Lancaster, Education Manager at the Charleston Gaillard Center, expressed, “Erin not only brings her love for the arts to her classroom, but also to her whole school. I had the privilege of hosting a mini-residency in her second grade classroom in the fall of 2021 and hosted Black Violin workshops. She organized workshops for all of the grades at Mount Zion to ensure that all students had the opportunity for an arts-enriched workshop. When you enter her classroom, it is evident that her students participate in hands-on experiments and are not afraid to try new things. Her students constantly want to share their creations and learnings with her. Erin moved up with her class this school year and will teach 3rd grade.”

Download photos from the Star Teacher of the Year event here.

2022-2023 Education & Community Program

In 2022-2023, the Gaillard Center’s Education & Community Program will present 12 different shows, four of which offer sensory-friendly performances. This season features such incredible programming as a lecture demonstration from Dance Theatre of Harlem,  presentations from National Geographic Live speakers, and a collaboration with Dance Conservatory of Charleston and Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra Students to present scenes from the Nutcracker. Seeking to increase the community’s direct interaction with artists on our stage, the Education & Community program will also offer masterclasses with artists from Straight No Chaser, Complexions, American Ballet Theatre, and more. 

Sterling deVries, Director of Education of the Gaillard Center, expressed, “The Charleston Gaillard Education and Community Program is honored to be an extension of the classroom and engage over 100,000 students in the live performing arts.”

The Charleston Gaillard Center’s Education & Community Program is made possible through the support of The Martha & John M. Rivers Performance Hall Foundation, the City of Charleston, Explore Charleston, and many institutions and grants. 

Learn more about programming, impact, and education partners at