Arts For the Schools: Bringing arts to the classroom and community for 30 years

Paula Rachuy
Special to the Sun
Arts for the Schools OnStage Performances will begin Oct. 18 with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company at the Truckee High School Theater. Pictured is a past AFtS performance by Cedric Wilson, who will perform with Dirk Powell Dec. 13.
Amy Edgett / Sierra Sun |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — “In 1980 when Terry Yagura moved to North Lake Tahoe from the Bay Area, she found a need and started working to fill it.” So stated an article from a Placer County Arts publication about Terry and Arts For the Schools in 1997.

And now, in 2013, 30 years after beginning, Arts For the Schools is going strong. AFtS is still a nonprofit volunteer organization, funded by grants and community support.

What prompted the beginnings of this wonderful organization? At the time, Terry’s son was in elementary school and she realized there was really no art happening. Knowing the benefits of including arts in education for children, Terry started volunteering in class at Kings Beach Elementary and encouraged others to volunteer.

She found artists willing to spend time in class with the students. Then she met Cathee van Rossem St. Clair, and the beginnings of the Artist in Residence program took root. Terry wrote grants and raised funds to make more programs and artists available, and recruited volunteers to help with the work of providing visual and performing arts to area youths. The AFtS program gradually spread to include Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline schools. Early fundraising started with bake sales, then walk-a-thons, held at the schools for contributed funding.

The Children’s Festival during summer was a popular program. Terry realized there were no summer art activities in the area and started the two-day summer festival with volunteers. There was entertainment for the kids, and hands-on art activity booths. She remembers the T-shirt painting was very popular, using vegetables and even real fish to print images. One family from the Seattle area planned their annual family vacation around the Children’s Festival, and current board member Ann Nguyen said it was a favorite of her children, also.

Terry recalled the Ballet Hispanico of New York was the first really big dance company to come to the area. They were to perform at UC Davis and agreed to come to North Tahoe for a program. They needed a large stage. At the time, Chuck Bluth owned the Cal Neva.

The stage was in poor shape and Bluth agreed to fix both the stage and curtains so AFtS could hold the performance there. AFtS rented lights and sound equipment and held its first large performance. Since then, many performances have been held at the Cal Neva, with children and families enjoying outstanding performers that would not be available in the area without AFtS.

Early performers included the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Lewitsky Dance Company, where Bella Lewitsky guided the performance herself on her 80th birthday.

In the quest to provide a broad range of arts, Terry arranged for groups that came from all over, including Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia. Artists enjoy coming to the North Tahoe area and tell other groups how well they are treated here. Terry remembers taking a call from a large ballet company that heard about AFtS and wanted to come perform. They were turned down as there was not a stage large enough for their group.

Yagura’s favorites over the years include the Kashore Marionettes, saying that “he takes puppetry to an art form.”

The group Galumpha is another favorite, from early on they have performed multiple times. Children always enjoy Living Voices, a group that performs each year in the schools.

One of Terry’s favorite memories is when she received a note from a mother whose child attended an opera assembly where the performer took questions from the kids about his vibrato. The 7-year-old went home and said “Mom, I love opera!”

Comments like this make the effort worth it.

As Arts For the Schools starts its 30th season, we invite you to participate and enjoy the wonderful entertainment that is lined up. For a list of performers, dates and ticket information visit

Remember the “Where’s Your Egg” search — like Arts For the Schools on Facebook and post photos of your painted egg.

Paula Rachuy is a member of the Arts For the Schools Board of Trustees.

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