Olympia — National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is a Challenge America grant of $10,000 to The Washington Center for the Performing Arts (WCPA) for workshops, performances, and related outreach activities within our Creative Connections program.
The Challenge America category supports primarily small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to under-served populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
The WCPA’s Creative Connections program links economically under-served Thurston County students with the arts. In 2017, local students will have access to educational programing including acclaimed contemporary dance company BodyVox and hip-hop chamber music group Black Violin. Jill Barnes, Executive Director for The Washington Center says, “By providing arts education, we are giving youth another avenue to interpret the world around them and to express their hopes and dreams. These opportunities can be transformative.”
In announcing funding, NEA Chairperson Jane Chu shared, “The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as The Washington Center, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts.”
Based out of Portland, contemporary dance group BodyVox is partnering with The WCPA to introduce students to a blend of bold athleticism and freewheeling imagination through dance. The student cohort at Avanti High School will experience the joy of creativity and movement over this three-month extended residency. Their trained dance artists and educators will use dance to engage, energize and empower students. Michael Velasquez, principal at Avanti High School, says “Our students have been eager to begin this important collaboration and opportunity.”
Each month, dancers will visit students in Olympia for workshops to explore dance education which will complement the high school proficiencies as laid out for K-12 dance education. These include understanding and applying the concepts and vocabulary of dance; developing the techniques and skills of dance; understanding and applying dance styles of artists, cultures, and times; applying an artistic process; communicating through the dance medium; making connections through the arts; and more.
Black Violin Partnership
Black Violin is an American hip-hop duo from Florida composed of two classically trained string instrumentalists, Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste (who go by the stage names Kev Marcus and Wil B.). The artists met in high school and later reconvened to create the musical group Black Violin. The duo plays a variety of music (relying heavily upon classical music), but are often categorized as hip-hop because of the changes to the rhythm and beats. This mingling of hip-hop and classical sensibilities is what is generally thought to give them their distinctive style.
At an upcoming students-only matinee, the artists will explore a series of in-depth questions including which songs were recognized during the performance (both hip-hop and classical), what opinions students had about the music, which different styles meshed effectively and sound harmonious, versus which were jarring and discordant, and exploring and comparing the performance to traditional classical music concerts and what were similarities and differences.
The project will break musical and cultural stereotypes and expand students’ access to arts. Black Violin’s most recent album is call “Stereotypes,” which speaks to their experience as classically trained black men. Their music creates conversations around stereotypes, race, and musical styles.