High school students compete in the 16th annual Poetry Out Loud state finals virtually, March 21

  • Brunette woman in her 30s wearing dangling earrings and gray tank top.
  • State poetry winner holding trophy with a women with a brown scarf and matching outfit and a man wearing glasses in gray pants and sweater.

Champion to participate in the national poetry recitation contest

High school students from seven Rhode Island schools will perform during the virtual 16th annual Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island state finals on Sunday, March 21, at 1 p.m., presented via Facebook live .

Seven schools submitted videos to the Rhode Island state finals this year. During the Facebook live event on March 21, attendees will see the recitations of all seven students. Then, there will be a final round, which will include the five finalists presenting a different poem. (The five final contestants were identified by judges earlier in this month.) Finally, there will be the selection of the state champion who will represent RI during the National Competitions in April.

2021 poetry out loud competitors are 

School  Name 
Central High School Jepthe Pinthiere  
Chariho Regional High School Virginia Keister  
Classical High School James Ninneman  
Portsmouth Abbey Casey Motta   
St Patrick Academy Bianca Bautista  
 Providence Country Day Simone Pellegrino
 Central Falls High School Karen Figueroa

“I am thrilled that this important program was able to continue given all the problems the pandemic created for students and teachers alike. On behalf of RISCA, I want to thank the participating schools and the hardworking RI Poetry Out Loud team. We send our congratulations to the champion who will be representing our state during the national competition.”

Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of RISCA

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a partnership with the RI State Council on the Arts (RISCA), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, inspires high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performances and competition. Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.

Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC. Since its inception, 3.6 million students from 14,000 high schools nationwide have participated in Poetry Out Loud. This year, all preliminary school competitions and visits with teaching artists were done virtually. Students rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic to showcase their love and appreciation for poetry during this atypical school year.

This unique year called for a strong POL team, which is led by Martha Lenihan-Lavieri. Lenihan-Lavieri is the veteran program coordinator for RI Poetry Out Loud since 2013, first through Arts Equity (formerly VSA Arts RI) as the lead program partner and then independently since 2019. She is a staple of the RI Arts Education community having been a founding member of Providence Inner City Arts and other groups. She is also a talented musician.

RI Poetry Out Loud also employs two teaching artists as coaches, Kate Lohman and Damont Combs. Lohman is an actor, director, producer and adjunct professor at Providence College. She also performs extensively in regional theater and summer stock, and was a company member at Pittsburgh Public Theater, Perishable Theater and AS220’s Empire Revue. Combs is a poet in RI originally from Queens, NY. Combs otherwise known as “Mr. Orange” has released two books of poetry, My Poem… My Riddle (Prysmatic Dreams Publishing, 2015) and Damont Combs presents A Touch of Orange (Kingdom Enterprise LLC, 2016). Combs is also on staff at Motif magazine as its Poetry Curator.

The winner of the Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals receives $200, and the winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. To ensure the safety and health of participating state champions, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington DC, as previously planned. The finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends, with a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.  

Poetry Out Loud Awards

RI event details: Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals will take place on Sunday, March 21, at 1 p.m., during a live Facebook presentation. It is free and open to the public. For more information on the state finals, visit Poetry Out Loud RI on Facebook.

About the partner organizations

National Endowment for the Arts  was established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit NEA website.  

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes and programs. For more information, visit its website.  

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information, visit RISCA’s website.

Op-Ed: Arts Education Is Career Preparation 

As published in the Providence Journal
Your Turn By Randall Rosenbaum Guest columnist

We’ve all heard stories about parents urging their children to pursue careers in business or medicine. “Anything but the arts!” is a common refrain.

That is such 20th century thinking. Today, lots of high paying jobs go to creative thinkers and doers, many of them artists or people with some arts education in school. Studies prove that arts education provides the skills critical to 21st century success. According to The Conference Board, eighty-five percent of business leaders say they can’t find enough job applicants with creativity and innovation skills. The best paying jobs require workers with creativity and higher order thinking and communication skills. Employers are increasingly looking for these qualities in the workers they recruit. Arts education, pre-K-12 and beyond, is part of the solution to this challenge.

What about our students looking for a career in an arts-related field? Opportunities abound that are high wage and high demand. Research by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that in Rhode Island the arts and culture annually contribute over $2.0 billion annually to our economy and employ 17,700 with compensation over $1.1 billion. The opportunities are there. So why is there resistance to promoting the arts as a viable career path for young people?

We believe that the arts will never become a viable employment sector until we start to promote arts careers during a student’s time in school. Young people need to understand that what they love in school can also be what they love as a career. Arts education in our state is facing the same challenges it faced in the 20th century. Arts educators, guidance counselors and others in career and technical education should be in a position to help guide students toward careers in the arts, just as they would in any other discipline, but they are not equipped or charged to do so.

We need to develop the infrastructure and support mechanisms to broaden – not limit – what the Rhode Island workforce can become. As important as the manufacturing sector has been in Rhode Island’s past, the arts, tourism, 21st century technology and other pursuits can be in our present and future.

In California, career and technical educators see careers in what they call the “Arts, Media, and Entertainment” sector falling into four general areas: Design, Visual, and Media Arts; Performing Arts; Production and Managerial Arts; and Game Design and Integration. These are all viable areas in Rhode Island, but we can add a few more. In our state, the arts are uniquely situated to train the next generation of artists and craftspeople through internships and apprenticeships. This is particularly important for those young people who do not see college as their path. The work that is being done by The Steel Yard in Providence, for example, helps to provide both traditional and non-traditional training programs for artists and craftspeople.

Now is the time for our government, education and business leaders to be forward thinking about career education in Rhode Island. We don’t know what the workforce will look like in 15-20 years, but we do know that visual literacy, media arts and design will be key components of industry.  Our state’s Commerce Corporation, in commissioning “Rhode Island Innovates 2.0” from the Brookings Institution, identifies the arts as an “opportunity area”. We encourage the State’s Career and Technical Education and the Governor’s Workforce Boards to embrace this finding. The arts ARE a legitimate career path for our young people. Schools should be encouraged to formalize the arts as part of the education all students receive, including career and technical education programs.

Randall Rosenbaum is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

National ‘Arts ARE Education’ campaign kicks off and coincides with Youth Art Month

March’s Youth Art Month is themed ‘Arts Connect Us’

March is Youth Art Month, and as the month begins the RI Council on the Arts (RISCA) is partnering with arts educators throughout Rhode Island to kick off a national campaign to punctuate the ongoing value of arts education for pre-K-12 students and beyond.   

Titled Arts ARE Education, the goal of this educational campaign  is to emphasize the importance of arts education as a central component to the well-rounded education of all students. Arts educators in dance, media arts, music, theater and visual arts throughout the school year and the summer will be contacting legislators, and school boards and administrators to remind them of the long-lasting benefits of the arts, and their overwhelming impact on students in our schools.  

Rhode Island has a commitment to arts education, recognizing it as a core subject and requiring including it as a “comprehensive program of study.” With budget shortfalls expected for the 2021-22 school year due to the pandemic, the campaign points out the key intersection of the arts in enriching students’ lives, reigniting motivation to learn, as well as helping to bring successes in many other subject areas. When considering budgets, Arts ARE Education presents a clear picture of the critical arts skills students need to develop to assist them in being productive, and college- and career-ready individuals.

Be sure to tell RISCA how you get involved by filling out the survey, Arts ARE Education Rhode Island Action Survey.

“This educational campaign couldn’t be more welcome, as arts educators are facing challenges beyond what other classroom teachers face. RI arts educators, parents and students should remind education leaders at the state and local level about the economic and educational impact of creativity and the arts to all students. I am glad that this campaign will help RI arts educators carry the message that the arts are an essential part of every student’s education, particularly during a pandemic, when so much else has been changed or lost.”  

–Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director, RI State Council on the Arts

Throughout Youth Art Month, which is themed Arts Connect Us, and during this summer, arts educators will be asking for school boards to pass the Arts ARE Education Resolution and for all arts stakeholders to sign the Arts ARE Education Pledge, in addition to other educational activities found on the Arts Are Education website.  

About Arts Are Education: Arts ARE Education was inspired by the Arts Education is Essential document that was issued by NCCAS in April and endorsed by 111 national organizations. The statement articulated how arts experiences support the social and emotional well-being of students and nurtures the creation of a welcoming school environment where all students can express themselves in a safe and positive way. To learn more about the Arts ARE Education campaign and to get involved visit https://www.artsareeducation.org

Read the RI Board of Education’s regulations regarding arts in the schools. Click here: