BY JANA WILSON
If you had to summarize the Lotus Blossoms outreach program in one phrase, it might be: “Make the world a smaller place.” By bringing global storytellers, dancers, and musicians to the area each spring, Lotus Blossoms strives to connect local kids with cultures from across the world.
Now in its 24th year, Lotus Blossoms connects children and their families, teachers, and the community to the world by creating up-close cultural encounters through performances in schools, workshops, classroom visits, and the World Bazaar.
The free, two-day World Bazaar (March 29–30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is often the first experience local students have with Lotus Blossoms, according to Loraine Martin, outreach director for the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation. The annual program reaches about 1,000 fourth graders. The children are given a Lotus Passport that allows them to visit different stations where they explore arts, culture, and language. The bazaar is held at Fairview Elementary School and is open to the community on the second day.
Lotus Blossoms is the educational component of the Lotus Education and Arts Foundation. The organization also sponsors the annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festival each fall. In 2018 the number of Blossoms participants was on par with the fall Lotus Festival. “The festival is very visually out in the community, but the Blossoms program is more in the schools, so it’s less visible,” Martin says.
Visiting artists perform at schools in seven counties. Each 45-minute performance comes with teacher materials in advance so there can be learning opportunities before and after the performance.
The visiting artist program has been eye-opening for many of the children, Martin says.
“We had an Iraqi artist who was visiting a school in Bedford during a time that Iraq was in the news,” she says. “The children were able to talk with him. He helped the students think about people from the Middle East in a new way and in a positive light.”
Lotus Blossoms is supported through individual donations, local business sponsorships, grants, and earned income. For more information, visit lotusfest.org.