Candy Schneider is living her dream sharing live art with students across the valley

By Debbie Hall

Prior to joining The Smith Center for the Performing Arts seven years ago to develop, implement and manage arts education and outreach programs; Schneider worked for the Clark County School District for 33 years, first as a visual arts teacher, then as the administrator of the visual arts program, and finally as the assistant director in the School-Community Partnership Program.

According to Schneider, joining The Smith Center “is an opportunity to live my dream. I have traveled all over the world attending performing arts centers and looked at programming available to schools to support learning in the classroom and the opportunity for young people to experience and be inspired by the arts. It just wasn’t in Las Vegas. Building this center and offering these resources to this community is an amazing dream come true.”

One of the many programs developed and implemented is hosting student matinees. Funded by a generous sponsor, these events are offered to the school district free of charge and more than 70,000 students get to enjoy student matinees throughout the school year. This includes at-risk schools that may not have an opportunity to experience the arts otherwise. To further the experience, The Smith Center provides materials to the teachers to prepare the kids for their time here as well as gain more out of the performance.

Additionally, there are touring productions where the Smith Center staff facilitates master classes, and are part of important national partnerships with The John F. Kennedy Center (since 2001) for their Any Given Child program and professional development workshops for local education facilitators, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning, Nevada High School Musical Theater Awards (held May 12 for Southern Nevada and then the winners head to New York City this summer), Camp Broadway and Disney Musicals in Schools.

In March 2007 Schneider was awarded the Nevada Art Educator of the Year Award by the National Art Education Association. She was also honored at the 2008 Governor’s Arts Awards for Distinguished Service in the Arts.

Over the years, Schneider has served on a variety of local, regional and national boards and committees including the National Art Educators Association, Getty Center for Arts Education, National Endowment for the Arts, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – Partners in Education, Nevada State Education Curriculum Standards, Henderson Cultural Plan, Nevada School of the Arts, Las Vegas Centennial, Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, VSA Nevada and a host of Clark County School District committees.

Schneider also served as chairman of the board of the Nevada Arts Council for five of her 12 years of membership. While there, she worked to increase support for arts education, individual artists, arts organizations and advocacy issues.

The Smith Center and Schneider believe it is important for kids to have an opportunity to experience arts and culture. Exposure to the arts has an impact that goes far beyond the obvious. It has been proven to enhance children’s mental and cognitive abilities, increase cultural understanding, improve performance across all curriculum areas and develop social skills.

“Watching the school buses filled with students pull up in front of The Smith Center is a magical experience. For many of the children, this may be their first field trip and the first opportunity see artists on the stage, whether a concert, ballet, or theater performance. It is truly an honor to share these inspirational experiences with young people.”