Storyteller, author and spoken word recording artist Donna Washington made her second appearance in a week’s time at The Clayton Center on Friday to the delight of more than 1,100 elementary and middle school students from around the county.
Washington’s appearances were presented free to area students through The Clayton Center’s 2023-2024 Student Stage Series with support from the North Carolina Arts Council (NCAC), a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and the Johnston County Arts Council. NCAC awarded $7,860 in federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the Clayton Cultural Arts Foundation, which supports the Center’s programming.
On Friday, Jan. 19, Washington entertained Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) students in grades K-2 from West Clayton, Riverwood, Cleveland and Corinth Holders Elementary schools, Meadow School, Cooper Academy and Like Arrows Christian Academy. The storyteller captivated students in two separate morning and afternoon performances.
The previous Friday, Jan. 12, middle schoolers from Innovation Academy, Swift Creek Middle, and Meadow School enjoyed time with Washington. Earlier that day she traveled to Clayton High School to speak to performing arts students.
“The outreach The Clayton Center is providing through this performance series is invaluable,” Martha Vandergriff, The Clayton Center’s family and educational programming coordinator, said. “For many students this is their first time in a performing arts theatre and stepping into the auditorium makes a huge impression on them. It really is an unforgettable experience for some of these students.”
Sarah Fawn McLamb, JCPS K-12 Fine Arts Teaching & Learning Specialist, said that the storytelling events fit perfectly with this year’s literacy in arts education theme.
“A big theme in arts education this year is that literacy is inherent in arts education. It’s in our standards and we lend ourselves to literacy all the time.”
She used the word “value” as an example, saying that students learn that the word value is used across disciplines such as when describing the value of color saturation in visual arts, the value of a math problem or the value of a music note.
“Students are learning how to have a relationship with words in different ways and in different contexts. Donna was a beautiful contribution to our theme this year and I’m thankful that we had the opportunity to work with her,” McLamb said.
North Carolina state Rep. Donna White attended the show. “I was delighted to see and hear elementary students in JCPS delirious with laughter from the unique and creative storytelling skills that author and storyteller Donna Washington shared today. What a wonderful gift Ms. Washington shared with our students today.”
Washington has captivated audiences for 30 years with her vocal range, animated expressions, and vivid characterizations that bring folktales, literary stories, and personal narratives to life. She has performed nationwide and offers workshops in storytelling, writing, education, and creative drama for librarians and educators.