Polk County’s K-12 student dancers, poets, and artists

It turns out that Lakeland’s best art party of the year isn’t at a gallery or even Artful Bowl, but the artists are just as talented – albeit a little shorter.  Polk County’s K-12 student dancers, poets, and artists of all stripes put on an incredible show for this year’s PlatformKids. On February 10, we invited our young artists, teachers, and their families and friends to join us and our community partners in admiring, applauding, and even making, some art.

What is Platform Kids?

PlatformKids is an annual showcase of K-12 student art and performance. Along with the Polk County Public Schools Department of Fine Arts, and with very generous support from the GiveWell Foundation, we work with art teachers from public, private, charter, magnet, and home schools across Polk County.  Platform starts planning months in advance, reaching out to as many art teachers as we can for student artwork. Any artwork submitted was accepted, which means a wider range of students gets the space and opportunity to show their work in the public realm. We also coordinate with as many dance studios, band classes, choirs, drama and poetry clubs, and any other kind of performance group that we can.  These performances are a favorite part of the party, and go on throughout the evening. Add all this together, and what we end up with is a diverse crowd, a multi-genre showcase of visual art and performance, and a fun party all in one.

Platform Kids 2019

PKids 2019 was held at the Junior Women’s Club in Lakeland (a big thank you to them for all of their help and time and support!), and around 250 people attended. We had 20 schools represented, 7 performance groups, 5 interactive activities led by local community organizations, and over 270 pieces of student art. The room was crowded with parents and grandparents taking cell phone shots of their budding young artists smiling next to their masterpieces. And crowded with families sitting in the audience, watching one of the incredible performances on the stage, of dancers or poets or singers. And crowded with kids grouping around the interactive tables, creating their own art right then and there.

First, second, and third place winners are chosen by a panel of judges, in each of the elementary, middle, and high school categories. These students receive recognition for their work, and their teacher receives a gift certificate for classroom art supplies. In the elementary school category, Evolet Yang, Maya Stiebel, and Zoey Hayman won first, second, and third place respectively. For middle schoolers, first place went to ThaiSharet Rosario, second to Fiorella Uriarte, and third to Madison Eckert. And in the high school category, Rachel Branham won first, Rachel Plyler second, and Madison Cuervo third.  Congratulations again to all of our winners! Our judges had a very difficult time choosing top places, with all the incredible pieces there. We had so many genres, so many media, represented and almost didn’t have enough room to display everything.

Likewise, the evening’s performances ran the gamut. We had readings of original poetry, a musical number, and a variety of dance performances. The performances are rounded out by films of multiple genres from the Polk County School Board Instructional Television “Best Of” selections. In addition, this was the PlatformKids debut of the TBS Step Team, who brought the house down and closed out the evening.  Both Crystal’s World of Dance and Ultimate Dance Center gave encore performances, and UDC won the Best Performance Award.  

Platform and the Community

As I waited with a dance troupe in the wings before announcing them, one of the young dancers asked me if we could do another PKids “like sometime soon, sooner than next year,” and I think that kind of sums up the PKids experience. It’s unlike any other event in Polk county. It’s inclusive, participatory, and encourages children and teens to keep growing and keep creating. It celebrates the talent of these youth, and fosters their creativity.

Thank you again to all of our participants, volunteers, performers, artists, teachers, and families who supported our party. Next year’s PKids will be even bigger and better. We’re already working on improvements, from exhibiting the winning pieces after the event, to incorporating a Black History Month showcase. And of course, next year’s PKids will feature students’ models for the Bonnet Springs Park Sensory Garden, which is quite the honor. We can’t wait to see you next February for Platform Kids 2020!

2019 highlights