College of Fine Arts Dean named Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year
Laura Ledford, dean of the College of Fine Arts at Millikin University, was named the 2015 Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year at the Illinois PTA State Convention, held April 17-18 in East Peoria, Ill.
Presented annually at the state convention, the Illinois PTA Child Advocate of the Year Award is given to an individual whose dedication, leadership, and collaboration have positively affected the lives of children. The individual's work exemplifies the ability to further the mission and purposes of PTA to make every child's potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities.
Past recipients of the award include State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch, Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, and Journalist Jim Broadway.
"It's quite an honor to have received this recognition," said Ledford. "I accepted the award on behalf of all the faculty, students and staff who have worked so hard to take the arts out into the community. Many of these activities have been going on for years, so it's an award for the people at Millikin that put these programs together and have made them grow."
For the past two years, Millikin University and Illinois PTA partnered to host "Spotlight: A Children's Celebration of Art and Community" on Millikin's campus, most recently on March 28. The event celebrates children, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, from across the state of Illinois including Reflections artists, scholarship winners, and students who serve their communities.
The spotlight event includes an art exhibit and workshops for children and adults in several categories including: Literature, Performing Arts, Music, Dance, and Visual Arts. Many of the workshops were developed and instructed by Millikin University students from the College of Fine Arts. Other workshops were conducted by Millikin faculty and Illinois PTA directors.
"Essentially, it's an event where we have workshops provided by faculty and students in different areas of the arts, including creative writing," said Ledford. "It's a great showcase for young students and their schools. We were pleased to have so many students and parents visit the Millikin campus."
Carolyn McCarty, director of the Illinois PTA Southern Region, said, "We felt that Laura was making a significant and relevant difference in the lives of children across the board, especially within the areas of art and education. We recognized Laura for what she has done in terms of embracing the Illinois PTA Spotlight event, and exposing fine arts to students across the state."
Ledford came to Millikin in 1991 upon completion of her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Indiana University. She has taught courses in theatre performance, voice production and stage dialects. She served the Millikin Department of Theatre and Dance as chair and artistic director from 2005 to 2011. Ledford's teaching and research interests are voice and speech, stage dialects, Shakespeare, acting theory, and directing. While at Millikin, she has directed numerous productions including "Richard III," "Sweeney Todd," and "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot."
When asked about giving back to the community from Millikin's perspective, Ledford says, "I think it's essential, especially in the arts. Students who are planning to have a career in the arts have to be very community-orientated. Giving students the opportunity to work with businesses and individuals in the community prepares them to go out and enter the world, and build a future audience."