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Actors, artists unite to aid failing schools

Tue., April 24, 2012


Kerry Washington, Sarah Jessica Parker and Forest Whitaker are adopting some of the nation’s worst-performing schools and pledged Monday to help the Obama administration turn them around by integrating arts education.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities announced a new Turnaround Arts initiative as a pilot project for eight schools with officials from the White House and U.S. Department of Education. Organizers said they aim to demonstrate research that shows the arts can help reduce behavioral problems and increase student attendance, engagement and academic success.

The two-year initiative will target eight high-poverty elementary and middle schools.

Washington, who is starring in the new ABC drama “Scandal,” will adopt a District of Columbia school over the next two years. Washington told the Associated Press there are often misconceptions about the role arts play in school, as if the arts are only the “sprinkles on the icing.”

“It’s not that the arts are something to put on in the final period of the day once all the real work is done,” she said.

Parker will adopt a school in Portland, and Whitaker will work with students in Des Moines, Iowa.

Artist Chuck Close, cellist Yo-Yo Ma , dancer Damian Woetzel and actress Alfre Woodard also are adopting schools.

Wyle felt ‘really good’ about arrest

Former “ER” star Noah Wyle and about 100 members of the group ADAPT were arrested Monday during a Capitol Hill protest to urge Congress not to cut Medicaid.

Wyle told the Associated Press that being arrested for the first time was “slightly surreal.”

“As soon as everybody saw me being led away, they let up a big whooping cheer, which made me feel really good,” Wyle said.

Many of the protesters were in wheelchairs. They’re the ones who would be hurt most by any Medicaid cuts, Wyle said.

It was five weeks ago that George Clooney, Wyle’s former “ER” co-star, was arrested during a demonstration in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington.

Wyle said he would “let George focus on the international; I’ll deal with the small domestic issues.”

The birthday bunch

Actress Shirley MacLaine is 78. Barbra Streisand is 70. Country singer Richard Sterban (Oak Ridge Boys) is 69. Actor-comedian Cedric the Entertainer is 48. Actor Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,”) is 48. Actress Melinda Clarke (“The O.C.”) is 43. Actor Eric Balfour (“24”) is 35. Actor Austin Nichols (“One Tree Hill”) is 32. Actress Sasha Barrese (“The Hangover”) is 31. Singer Kelly Clarkson is 30. Singer-bassist Tyson Ritter (All-American Rejects) is 28.


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