Gala Hispanic Theatre was born, in 1976, out of Teatro Doble, then the only theater in the DC area catering to Spanish-speaking audiences. The mission of Gala Hispanic Theatre is twofold: To bring Hispanic and Latino plays to Spanish-speaking members of the DC-area community, and to bring the English-speaking population awareness of the rich offerings of Hispanic theater. In addition to enhancing the theater-going experiences of DMV residents, Gala Hispanic Theatre offers dedicated bilingual educational programs to DC-area youth, including a free after-school program for youth 12-18. These programs help enhance language skills and literacy, improve self-esteem, and strengthen cultural identity and knowledge of other cultures.
ClancyWorks Dance Company:
Dance for Good
At ClancyWorks Dance Company, the motto is “shifting perceptions through performance and education.”
Founded in 2001 by Dr. Adrienne Clancy, ClancyWorks focuses on positive social action through community engagement, senior citizen programs and arts education.
“Adrienne attacks everything with an equal amount of passion and enthusiasm,” said ClancyWorks intern Maia Stam, a senior at Goucher College.
ClancyWorks offers four strands of arts education – in-school K-12 residencies, in singular assembly presentations, in after school programs and through college and university residencies.
“Youth development is really at the core of our educational work,” Erin Tunbridge, Program Coordinator, said in an interview.
“We like to make sure there are also special representatives from the DEA,” Erin said. “Students are seeing how being part of this program is creating a community within itself. They’re building community with peers, learning about teamwork and problem solving.”
Board member Camille Harris came to know ClancyWorks as the director of The Boys and Girls Club of Silver Spring, when she offered daytime practice space in exchange for dance classes for the kids in afterschool attendance.
I believe in their mission,” Camille said. “I believe arts in education is very important. It keeps kids busy and keeps them occupied in something that is developing them as well as keeping them off the streets.”
ClancyWorks Dance Company:
ASPIRE to be Superheroes
Acquire Knowledge. Solve Conflicts. Partner to accomplish greater goals. Improve academic achievement. Respect self, others, and the environment. Embrace community and diversity
This is the philosophy employed by ClancyWorks Dance Company in its facets of arts education work. Through the concept of ASPIRE, students learn about social consciousness and about becoming active, engaged citizens in their communities.
Students keep journals, write informal critiques, and learn not just dance steps, but job and life skills. Each student is given the opportunity to take on a leadership role.
"It's not just that whoever is loudest is the leader," said program coordinator Erin Tunbridge.
“(ClancyWorks) has helped to boost my confidence. I will forever remember this class because it has been educational, fun and very interesting.”
-8th grade student, Neelsville Middle School
“This is such a cool class! Before, I was a little nervous about dancing around others even though I previously took a dance class. They were people I didn’t know. I learned fast though that my friends and peers support me. I’ve learned many types of dance and it’s all so fun.” - 10th grade student, Watkins Middle School
Be Your Own Superhero:
Eleventh grade girls at West Potomac High School were challenged to create their own super heroines, using the dance process as a means of brainstorming. The goal was to create characters who could make a difference in the world around them. One student reflected:
"Although we may not have known it at first, the powers and characteristics that we chose for our superheroes deeply represented the inner traits that were hidden within ourselves -- the traits we knew we had but were too afraid to reveal; or the traits that we always had and never knew about. Interestingly enough we all had the same idea -- a female superhero that broke the stereotypes, and bettered our community and the world."
ClancyWorks Dance Company:
You're never too old to dance.
Okay, so The SOAR (Seniors Organized in the Arts to Rejuvenate) program at ClancyWorks Dance Company might not be a training ground for an NBA hip hop dance team, but it provides a physical and mental workout for seniors aged 55 to 98. Which is pretty badass in its own right.
"It’s an opportunity for (seniors) to get together and open up different parts of their lives," said Erin Tunbridge, program coordinator at ClancyWorks. "Rather than just meeting each other and talking about the weather, we’re initiating different conversations."
The classes include both seated and standing work for a variety of agility levels. Much of the focus, Erin said, is on using dance to exercise the memory as well as the body. Students might be asked to choose a word to complete a sentence, and offer a movement to go along with the word. They're tasked to remember each movement, then to put them all together. Et voila, a dance!
Now, doesn't that sound more fun than flashcards?
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE AT 826DC
Upon entering The Museum of Unnatural History, visitors are greeted thusly.
This is Harry the Swear. “Swear” is derived from swamp + bear. He lives inside the Museum, which houses not only Unicorn Tears and Primordial Soup, but also 826DC.
At 826, students aged 6-18 are advised on creative and expository writing skills. Through programs that take place both on-site and in school, the children learn to appreciate the arts of writing and storytelling through creating books.
826DC bases its model on the 826 Valencia program founded by writer Dave Eggers in 2002. More than a decade later, the 826 National program boasts eight affiliates, all of which are dedicated to enhancing writing skills and helping teachers create literary arts curricula that allow students to thrive.
Tara Campbell has been volunteering with 826DC for two years. She started as a tutor, she said, and now helps host field trips.
“The thing that drew me here was the focus on creativity. It was an opportunity to get away from my desk and give back to the community.”
Click through the gallery below
In one activity, the students create the beginning of a spy story together, and then each child writes his or her own ending.
In another, the students work first in groups, then in pairs, then individually, to create a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, inspired by the Edward Packard books of the ’80 and ‘90s.
Once a week, 826 volunteers and staffers do Reading All-Stars one-on-one tutoring sessions at Tubman Elementary. Tuesday field trips are in Spanish.
On field trips to 826DC, students are taken through the process of creating a book. They create a story while a volunteer types. An illustrator is on hand to draw pictures. The lessons often reflect what the students are learning in school, and each child is given the opportunity to contribute.
“We’re really working with the schools,” said Areesah Mobley, director of development at 826DC.
Tara recalled one student who seemed particularly quiet, but who demonstrated a great talent.
“She handed me one of her stories and I was blown away by the strength of her writing,” she said. “I felt like being able to see a different side of this girl helped me to acknowledge her potential.”
FINDING BRAVE: THIS IS MY BRAVE
Phoebe has struggled with depression more than half her life.
“I’ve been on medication since I was 6 or 7,” the 15-year-old said. “Most people my age don’t think of someone having a disability unless you’re in a wheelchair. People will say ‘oh, I’m so depressed.’ In a way, it’s offensive.”
In This Is My Brave, Phoebe has found a platform to talk about her experiences, and a community of people who give her understanding, and even admiration.
Jennifer Marshall founded the organization in 2013, after writing a blog for What to Expect about being a mother living with bi-polar disorder. Though Jennifer had written a blog, Bi-polar Mom Life, for a number of years, she’d always done so anonymously, fearing the stigma that can accompany mental illness.
“A lot of the stories about mental illness tend to be tragedies,” she said. “You don't hear the success stories of people who have overcome it. It can be scary to hear stories of mental illnesses left untreated and a tragedy happened. We are bringing positive stories into the light."
LIVING BRAVE: THIS IS MY BRAVE
After Jennifer's piece appeared on a national website, people reached out to thank her for sharing her story. "I realized what a relief it was to open up about that part of my life."
Upon launching a Kickstarter to fund the first show, Jennifer and associate producer Anne-Marie Ames were stunned to see that support was plentiful.
“Everyone was so moved by the message we shared,” said Jennifer, who was diagnosed in 2006, after two hospitalizations for manic episodes the prior year. “We’ve all been so impacted by mental illness, and we’re able to lead full lives.”
Today, This Is My Brave puts on full-length shows in multiple cities, including DC and Boston, performs at schools, hosts yoga classes and more. All the cast members and producers volunteer their time. A team has formed to support cast member Annie as she runs a half-marathon for the cause. In June, This Is My Brave will open Mental Health America’s annual conference, in Alexandria.
Phoebe compared being a part of This Is My Brave to being on a sports team.
“On sports teams,” she said, “they say ‘I got your back.’ We kind of are a team. It’s having that gut feeling that these people have got my back and I’ve got theirs.”
"I'm so happy to have met Jennifer and This Is My Brave. I was writing the blog and I wanted to put it out there, but it wasn't until I was in a room with other people who were struggling, that I felt like I'd found people I wanted to reach. This is about not hiding, this is about accepting.” – Ev Reheard, singer/songwriter, speech pathologist
"There was a time in my life, when my child was three months old, that I thought about going to the top of my apartment building and jumping off. That doesn't make me a bad mother, it doesn't make me crazy. This Is My Brave is a beautiful idea. It’s so brave to stand up and say 'this is what I've been through and it doesn't make me weak.’ " - Lynne, clinical social worker, advocate for postpartum depression
“The response I have gotten since getting up on stage and telling the gist of my story and battles has been so rewarding. People I thought didn’t like me, strangers, and people I knew didn’t like me, all put away their opinions to congratulate me, and the most incredible thing of all time was they stopped to thank me. I was thanked for having the courage to speak about things they couldn’t. I was thanked for showing them that they shouldn’t be afraid of their disease, that it shouldn’t be what defines them and their moments in life.” – Gabbi, 17, cast member
“Being in the Brave cast is important to me because it is the first time I am admitting my struggles not only publicly but to myself and friends & loved ones. Being a part of this organization has given me the courage to admit and share my story in hopes that it might encourage someone else silently struggling to feel less alone and ask for help.” – Jessica, founder of Heart Marks Art Therapy
Photographs courtesy of This Is My Brave.
Slideshow of works from Life Pieces to Masterpieces. All images property of Life Pieces to Masterpieces.
BURSTING THE BUBBLE
LIFE PIECES TO MASTERPIECES
“I want to make our cupcake a POWER RANGER!”
This is how a group of 3 –and -4-year-old apprentices (students) at Life Pieces to Masterpieces decided to decorate their cupcakes.
Life Pieces to Masterpieces is a program aimed at African-American boys and young men in the underserved areas of the District of Columbia. Founded in 1996, LPTM fosters creative drive and uses art as a form of collaboration and meditation. The apprentices practice a specific form of art in the style of founder and artist Larry Quick.
Today, the after-school program serves 117 African American young men ages 3-25 still using an art method like Quick’s with a program built on the sturdy foundation of their human development system. The majority of apprentices live in Wards 7 and 8.
“It’s easy to live in DC and never escape your Foggy Bottom bubble, to never go east of the river,” said development manager Mignotae Kebede, who grew up in an Ethiopian family in California.
Typically, 5-6 apprentices work together on each piece. The process starts with meditation and journaling. Then it opens up to a group discussion, sketches of what the art will transform into, and finally, the group heads to the art room where they paint their canvases and stitch together a creation.
Eventually they add a title and a poem or story to accompany the piece before it is complete. Several of the works created by apprentices of Life Pieces are currently being curated and will be displayed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture set to open in 2016.
FINDING YOUR MEDIUM
LIFE PIECES TO MASTERPIECES
Life Pieces to Masterpieces has a broad definition of creativity and encourages the apprentices to understand that everyone is born with creative abilities, something they are good at. They just have to find the medium—whether it be yoga, music, poetry, science or hip hop.
But some of the apprentices find that they truly do have a passion for the roots of LPTM, in the art room.
“I get to express my feelings without judgment,” said Cateo, 11. “It just feels good.”
A seven-year veteran of Life Pieces, Cateo said he didn’t really get into the art until about four years ago. His favorite piece is his self-portrait.
As an International Affairs and Anthropology major at George Washington University, Mignotae spent much time traveling and studying development in other countries. She came realize, however, that similar issues were happening right in her own backyard -- that she could apply a lot of what she learned abroad locally.
“For me, I was always surrounded by black males, growing up with two older brothers and my father being one of 12 sons,” she said. “Then I saw Eric Garner — I don’t know if it was because it was actually on video or what, but it affected me. When I heard about Life Pieces in college, I had to do it.”
SHIELDS AND CUPCAKES
LIFE PIECES TO MASTERPIECES
Through multiple programs and workshops, Life Pieces to Masterpieces pursues its mission to “develop character and leadership, unlock potential, and prepare African American boys and young men to transform their lives and communities.”
The Shield of Faith is one of the many building blocks of the philosophy behind LPTM. Composed of a wheel of several colors, each represents a value. For example, brown signifies discipline and black, a combination of all of the other colors, signifies leadership.
LPTM uses the Shield to encourage noble behavior as well as a way to teach the apprentices symbolism at an early age.
The tiny cupcake-makers were decorating their treats to represent a value from the Shield.
“We made Power Ranger cupcakes because they’re leaders…” said Josh, 3. He looked around to see the positive reaction of the classroom. Then, he asked the ultimate question.
“Can we eat them now?”
About the Author: Olivia Rios is a writer for the Daily Do Good. She thinks Power Rangers are cool and cupcakes are even better!
ART AS A COMMON LANGUAGE
Two years ago in Austin, Tex., Paulina Sosa and a group of painters wondered how they could use their art to bring attention to the issue of urban poverty. Their aim was to bring together allies and inspire action against homelessness and hunger, rather than depress people and make them feel hopeless. They formed a collective called Painting Out Poverty to work on this problem.
But last fall, Sosa moved to Washington, DC to start her Master of Public Health at George Washington University. End of the group, right?
Wrong. Just the beginning.
As if a five-class courseload, three jobs and a health internship at the World Health Organization weren’t enough to keep her busy, Sosa launched POP in Washington, DC. The group landed a Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning, a grant established by GWU to support social entrepreneurs who want to have an impact on the DC community.
“The arts are a common language that can have a healing effect, both on the people who are creating it and those who are receiving it,” said Sosa. The group capitalizes on the unifying effect of the arts to bring people together in a positive setting to advocate for anti-poverty policies. The artists benefit as well, says Sosa. “It gives them a platform to work with the community on socially conscious initiatives.”
Now, just a year after Sosa touched down, POP’s network of visual artists has expanded to include writers, musicians and an impressive array of community arts organizations. Its first event was a March fundraiser and book drive in conjunction with Reading Partners. And that was just the beginning.
THE HEALING POWER OF ART
On Aug. 15, Painting Out Poverty hosted a day-long kick-off at the Westminster Presbyterian Church around the theme “The Healing Power of Art.” The work of local artists adorned the walls, and representatives of organizations such as Street Sense, Fuerza Contra Alzheimer’s and the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop sat ready at tables to discuss how their organizations use the arts to combat poverty and illness.
One of the attendees was too big to fit inside the venue: A bus, painted white with gold dollar accents, sat in the parking lot outside. I Have a Home Here is a mobile, community-based art installation meant to illustrate the realities of poverty in the city. In a previous installation the bus was rendered invisible, representing the invisibility of the homeless. Future plans include creating a temple to homelessness in the interior of the bus, and making it a base for an interactive game of Homelessopoly, where players move around the board with backpacks, cardboard boxes and shopping carts, and give donations to Street Sense to get out of jail.
Back in the church, the day’s program began with an all-star panel, moderated by Juanita Hardy, Executive Director of Cultural DC, in which representatives from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Will Rap 4 Food and Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) joined CHAW, Fuerza Contra Alzheimer’s and the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian to discuss how artists and arts organizations can empower people, develop communities and transform lives.
THE FUTURE OF POP
“Art has a role to play in addressing poverty, alienation and marginalization,” said Pastor Brian Hamilton. “For arts to be transformative, we have to get to the places where people don’t see themselves as being part of the arts.”
Navada Taylor of Will Rap 4 Food agreed. “Everyone on this panel knows that the arts community really sets the tone of what happens in society. If we intentionalize that, we can change society.”
Hardy provided the business case for the arts by detailing how arts centers have created jobs and led to economic development in communities like H Street and Columbia Heights.
The panel members were not alone in testifying to the healing power of art. James, a writer and vendor at the Street Sense table, described the arts as therapeutic. They relieve stress and helped him work through depression. “I could tune out the rest of the world and just concentrate on writing that poetry and creating that art.”
In his eyes, the art workshops Street Sense offers are essential. “For our vendors it really makes a difference in their lives. Dealing with homelessness and poverty, it really helps to give them somewhere to go and give them an outlet.”
So what’s next for Painting Out Poverty?
Sosa says POP will partner with local organizations on painting and writing workshops in schools to empower students to tell their stories. She envisions a journal of short stories and poems about poverty, hunger and homelessness to raise awareness of how these issues affect children.
Another project Sosa has in store is to enlist graffiti artists to create a mural as a joint effort with community members, who would not only help design the work, but would also participate in the painting process.
About the Author: Tara Campbell is a DC-based writer of crossover science fiction. Formerly a painter, she’s now content to stand back and write about people who can really wield a brush.
ROOM TO REBLOOM GIVES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS SECOND CHANCE
What do interior design and domestic violence have to do with each other? Well, imagine starting from zero, rebuilding your life and then creating a whole new space for your new life.
Since 2012, the hardworking people at Room to Rebloom have been doing just that for domestic violence survivors and their families in the Washington metropolitan area. Founded by Enid McKitrick, the nonprofit works to empower low-income women, who’ve been victims of domestic violence, through interior design. Their motto: “Design. Heal. Grow.”
“We’ve given [the women] a sense of purpose when it comes to their home, a sense of commitment [and] dedication to something that’s new and different,” said volunteer interior designer Kia Weatherspoon. “This type of dedication to one thing, to their own space that’s clean, thoughtful and has a purpose – I think that’s really changing their lives.”
At Room to Rebloom, it’s about more than redesigning homes – it’s about creating spaces, where women can go to feel safe, in control, and strong enough to stand on their own two feet. The clients are involved throughout the entire design process so they feel a sense of ownership.
“I wanted to bring empowerment to a group of people who were very disempowered and the obvious choice was domestic violence survivors,” McKitrick said. “We want these women to feel that they’re worthy of having beauty in their lives.”
STRIVING FOR BETTER
To become a client of Room to Rebloom, the women must already have their own housing, whether it’s a one-bedroom home or an apartment. Furthermore, they must be referred by an organization or program that provides domestic violence survivors with emergency and transitional services and other resources that may come in handy during this difficult time in their lives.
“Without these services, many women end up returning to the abusive relationship, and we need to be sure that a client is stable before we can invest our resources,” McKitrick said. “Once she’s ready for independent housing and has found an apartment, that’s when she is referred to us and we assign one of our designers to work with her.”
Part of Room to Rebloom’s success has to do with the fact that several companies donate furniture, home décor, paint and other much-needed materials. The companies include Ikea, Sherwin Williams, House of Ruth, and the American Society of Interior Designers.
In a way, the newly-designed homes serve as the final step for these women to be able to go on and live the life they’ve always wanted and more importantly, the life they deserve.
“Everyone deserves good design. And the people who need it the most don’t know they don’t have well-designed spaces, they don’t know how to ask for it and they don’t get it,” Weatherspoon said. “You can’t put a dollar amount on how creating these spaces can make people [want to] strive for something better just by putting them in an environment that’s outside their norm.”
FROM PAGE TO STAGE:
YPT HELPS DC YOUTH FIND THEIR VOICES
The only professional theater in DC dedicated entirely to arts education has an ambitious mission: To inspire young people to realize the power of their own voices.
Karen Zacarías founded Young Playwrights’ Theater in 1995 out of a desire to use her experience with art to positively impact her community. Since then, the program has exploded. YPT has produced more than 350 plays and reached more 13,000 students, performing for nearly 100,000 people across the DMV.
YPT works directly with students in schools in the DMV through its large array of program offerings. “I got my start with them when they came to my school through the In School Playwriting Program when I was in middle school,” said Nana Gongadze, a YPT alumna. “A play I wrote – ‘The Alligator Summer,’ a comedy about kids looking for a summer job - was chosen as part of the New Play Festival.”
Through playwriting, YPT “develops students’ language skills, and empowers them with the creativity, confidence, and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in school and beyond,” according to the organization’s website. YPT’s vision is to seek social justice by empowering all students, especially those who from underserved areas, to value their own voices and opinions.
"YPT (helped) me realize that I could be more than I already am,” said Anna Vargas, another YPT alumna and current member of their Student Advisory Council. “I’d never done creative writing before — I didn’t think I could write as well as some of my friends. YPT has helped me believe in myself.”
CATCHING THE PLAYWRITING BUG
YPT runs several different types of programs throughout the year: both in-school and after-school programs, a summer writing workshop, and the Young Playwrights’ Workshop. In addition, YPT also collaborates periodically with theaters, museums, and other institutions to create works that are relevant to current events.
Each in-school program culminates in the New Play Festival, an annual “celebration” of the voices of YPT’s students. YPT chooses several plays from its group of students and partners each writer with professional actors and directors to put on their plays in front of a public audience. The 2016 festival will take place at three different venues in DC over the course of three weeks in April.
“Seeing my play performed was the best part [of the program]. It was so cool to see how the play had come so far, and the creative choices that were made… I had never written a play before then, and the experience definitely made me catch the playwriting bug. I've been writing them ever since,” said Nana.
YPT’s upcoming performance, “Girls Write Out!” is coming to DC on Monday, October 19th, at the Forum in Sidney Harman Hall. Featuring four plays written by YPT student playwrights age 8-15, the production is part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival.
EXPANDING ARTS EDUCATION
YPT’s model of teaching has garnered attention from media across the nation, and the organization has won numerous awards, including the prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in October of 2010.
The award was presented to YPT by First Lady Michelle Obama, and solidified the importance and success of YPT’s work with students.
“We all went to the White House and were asked specifically if we could bring a student,” said executive director Brigitte Taylor. “One of our students, Marianna, had written a play about missing her mom. It was so simple and beautiful. She got to go on stage and talk about her work and her experience in front of all these people, including Michelle Obama. She also got to call her mom from the White House. Anytime that I’ve been able to see the path a young person takes from beginning to end like that has just been so meaningful.”
In the future, YPT hopes to expand to even more schools across the area and reach even more students. “A lot of people are drawn to arts education—I knew that it was important because of the meaning of the arts in my own life, but it wasn’t until I saw that transformative power in these students that I really understood the meaning and power of the arts. I want to make sure every student is successful,” said Brigitte.
“I’ve learned the importance of being young and needing a creative outlet,” said Shelby, a YPT volunteer. “It gives kids the opportunity to trust their own ideas and tells them that what they think and say is important. The mission is amazing. As I was working more and more with the kids, I discovered how important their voices are, and especially how important it is to give a voice to youth in underserved areas.”
R-O-C-K IN DC
Are you ready to rock?
That’s what Girls Rock! DC asks young girls throughout the DMV. Through a yearly summer camp and the eight-week Girls Rock! After School Program at The SEED School in Southeast, Girls Rock! DC teaches girls the confidence they need to become smart, successful women.
And why do girls rock? “Cause we’re awesome. I’m awesome,” said Dayanah, a 9th grader.
“Our mission at Girls Rock! is to empower young women and female-identified persons to find their own voices, be heard, be loud, be different than what they’re typically being told to be, and we do that through music education,” said Frankie V, head of GR!ASP.
SEED resident advisor Janice Carroll was the force behind bringing Girls Rock! to the school. “Because of my background interest in music, in DJing, I was like, let’s try this.” She began volunteering at the summer camp after seeing a SEED student perform at a showcase.
The first day of the program, each girl chooses an instrument and starts learning to play. From there, they’re put into bands that each write a song to perform at the end-of-term showcase. While learning their instruments, the girls learn social skills and meet new friends.
“I recognize my talent more, and it’s not just singing and dancing, like today I realized that I’m good at the drums too,” said Dayanah, who has been in GR!ASP since it started last year.“...It has helped me a lot to recognize who I am as a person and my musical talents."
Frankie is blown away by all that the program gives to the girls. “To give them an opportunity to do something they’d never have the opportunity to do and meet another person who is similar to their background, or maybe not even, but mix them all together, to come out and produce a song, it’s huge.”
Empowerment is a core value of Girls Rock! DC. Guest speakers and artists visit the program on a regular basis. Frankie recalled a visit from prominent African American female business owners. “(They) just… talked to the girls about ‘hey I came from a similar background and look where (I am), it’s possible.’”
The girls carry the lessons they learn playing music into their everyday lives.
“It has helped me become more confident in my performing and strengthen my skill(s),” said Madison, a 9th grader. She also has learned that “it’s ok to work with others, because you can make a stronger force with each other.”
“It takes a lot to be a girl,” she said. “And people just don’t understand that….it takes a lot of strength to be a girl.”
Janice has seen many girls gain self-confidence through Girls Rock! One girl, Sydney, has gone from having stage fright to a lead role in the school’s production of “The Lion King.”
“I remember her almost freaking out (at the showcase), because she didn’t want to perform…,” Janice said. She credits Girls Rock! with helping Sydney believe in herself.
Conflict resolution comes into play. In GR!ASP’s first year, some of the girls were apprehensive about performing, which led to a debate or two. At the same time, Frankie was going through a personal tragedy. “I was like listen, you guys don’t understand how important what you’re doing right now is.”
By sharing what she was going through, Frankie helped the girls gain perspective. After that, they were able to put aside their fears and differences.
“They all kind of looked at each other and they (said) ‘Like we have to do this. We’ve been working so hard and we have to do this.’ And they hugged me, and we went to the show, and the show was amazing.”
The girls also use the program to express themselves and to get away from everyday life. “I think it’s peaceful. Like you can talk to your band coaches or you can let (it) out through your music,” said Madison.
It’s not just the girls who benefit from Girls Rock! Frankie said she’s learned the value of selflessness, and being a good role model to young women.
She recalls being nervous when her band played the lunch time at camp, but by the end of the set, all the girls practically rushed the stage.
“Just to see them looking up to you, and even though I was so nervous, I was like freaking out, sweating bullets, and to them, they were like ‘I can do this, ‘cause you can do this’...That’s so rewarding.”
About the Author: Ashley Angeline is an intern with the Daily Do Good. A student at the University of Cincinnati, Ashley aspires to be a broadcast journalist. And to marry Prince Harry
THE POWER OF ART
While working for the Institute of Musical Traditions in 1995, Busy Graham noticed a problem. There was a need for top quality arts enrichment programs in schools and few work opportunities for artists during the work week.
“Arts can play such a vital role in helping kids finding their path to a good, healthy life,” she said.
Since then, CAA has grown into an accredited, award-winning regional outreach arts education nonprofit that brings arts programs to school and underserved communities in the DMV. CAA has reached more than 5 million young people via more than 25,000 artist programs, according to executive director James Modrick.
“(Class Acts Arts) brings the arts to people where they are,” said Modrick.
Artists visit schools, youth detention centers, and other community-based organizations. The interactive programs include workshops, performances, and artist residencies. CAA’s programs introduce schools and communities to a variety of art forms, such as storytelling, puppet shows and dance, among others.
She said she has seen her students “realize the power of art.”
“Through the arts we can find common ground,” she said, “we can make connections. Because I work in the correctional facility, people are from very different backgrounds… but sitting around a table and making art, the things that separate them don’t matter anymore because they are sharing a common goal.”
CREATING A POSITIVE IMPACT
While CAA works in many venues and with different populations, the bulk of programming is focused on youth.
“(We) engage children’s minds in a different way that opens their minds and motivates,” said Modrick.
CAA’s teaching model doesn’t include grades or teaching to the test. Instead, CAA artists try to bring out students’ talents by encouraging them to excel without making them feel like their work is wrong.
“Often people see making art as something you have to be good at, or you have to have specific talent,” said Quiroga. “…I work with teenagers, and they take risks all the time. They take risks by doing negative things… but making art is intimidating (for them).”
Workshops by CAA artists allow participants to take positive risks in a supportive environment. The non-judgmental spirit of Class Acts Arts can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling academically or behaviorally.
Denise Rocco, general music teacher at Cedar Lane School, a self-contained program for students with severe disabilities, sang the praises of CAA.
“We’ve been using Class Acts Arts exclusively for a few years,” she said. “They adapt what they are doing to meet the needs of our students.”
Because some students’ disabilities preclude them from attending live performances in public venues, CAA visits to Cedar Lane afford the children opportunities they might not otherwise have.
Music in particular, Rocco said, can help break down barriers and have positive physical and mental effects on her students.
“Most people enjoy music and these kids are no different. There are kids whose muscles are always tight, and when the music is on, they can relax. It can be very calming if they’re agitated or anxious. It’s something they can be successful at. They can shake a tambourine and control the sound they’re making.”
ART IS IN EVERYTHING WE DO
Modrick believes art is in everything.
“(You can) find creativity and artistic engagement in everything you do,” he said.
The nonprofit’s programs teach audiences how art is a part of other subjects including, but not limited to aviation. environmental science and social studies.
Flutist Dr. Andrei Pidkivka and violinist/singer Dr. Solomia Gorskhivska are Ukranian performers in the music ensemble Gerdan (sometimes partnering as Duet Gerdan). Their performances introduce audiences to various aspects of Ukrainian culture.
“We take them on a tour to Ukraine with the different musical styles,” Pidkivka said. “We tell the stories.”
A folk music demonstration, for example, might include stories of shepherds. They wear cultural costumes, rich in colors and patterns.
“We tell the kids who made the costumes, what regions and villages they came from.”
After seeing Gerdan perform, teachers and students have said they have a better understanding of Ukrainian culture.
“Many kids don’t even know where Ukraine is,” Pidkivka said. “We say ‘name a country in Eastern Europe,’ and they say Ireland or Italy.”
On return visits, however, students have told him that the performance inspired them to take note of news from Eastern Europe, or that they chose to study Ukraine for international projects.
“(Music),” he said, “is a perfect bridge for people to connect.”
Recently, CAA partnered with Passion for Learning, Inc., Big Learning, and Sligo Middle School in S’team Sligo, a leadership development project to engage students through STEAM activities. The students created a curriculum that reflected what they were learning in their class lessons. They wrote a song about Sligo Creek , and worked with the artists to create a mural.
Art is more than just doing something because it’s fun,” said Modrick, “It’s enthusiasm. It’s a source of joy. It’s a way of life.”
This is a key lesson of Class Acts Arts’ programs. Some of Carien Quiroga’s PYA students have told her that they would have taken a different path if they had been introduced to art earlier.
She recalls one student in particular, a young man who took part in several workshops.
“He was almost expressing a wish to me. I think he realized how good he was at it and that art can be this powerful way of expression. I guess he felt successful. It was a very moving and touching moment for me to hear that.”
About the Author: Rolena M. King is a writer and marketing, communications, and branding professional based on the East Coast. She enjoys the arts, and her favorite form of art is dancing.
JOY IN GENERATION
In 1988, inspired by studies that showed the benefits of art on Alzheimer's patients, scientist and sculptor Lili-Charlotte "Lolo" Sarnoff founded Arts for the Aging.
Twenty-seven years later, Arts for the Aging is a thriving nonprofit that serves more than 600 programs each year.
"Unfortunately a lot of people tend to overlook older adults, think they don't have anything to offer, or aren't valuable to society, when in fact that's not the case," said Brandi Rose, program director at AFTA.
The programs, she noted, provide social engagement and interaction for the aging clients, particularly those who might struggle to connect with others in a traditional manner, which can become a challenge for people afflicted with dementia.
"They have so many memories and thoughts," she said, "so many ways they can express themselves."
A study by the National Endowment for the Arts and George Washington University, titled “The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Programs on Older Adults,” persons aged 65 – 103 who take part in a weekly participatory arts program report “better health, fewer doctor visits, and less medication usage; more positive responses on the mental health measures; (and) more involvement in overall activities.”
Arts for the Aging offers two types of programs: Joy in Generation is for seniors who are more frail, while Arts Alive! (yes, with an exclamation point) is a sequential learning series for participants who are independent and high-functioning. Disciplines include healing movement, music, dance, creative writing, and drawing and painting.
AGING AND ENGAGING
Nancy Havlik is the co-director at Quicksilver, an AFTA-sponsored dance company of people ages 65 and up. Her dancers, a few of whom are in their late 80’s, she said, often volunteer to accompany her on visits to community centers and nursing homes, where she leads workshops.
“The interaction elicits people’s creativity,” she said. “…You watch the room kind of wake up as people get into their physical bodies. You see a change in energy, not just in individuals, but in people interacting with each other.”
Teaching artists are all paid for their planning and instruction time, a reflection on founder Sarnoff’s respect for artists’ work and time.
Programs are often cross-disciplinary, with two or more teachers collaborating to create an offering that draws from multiple art forms. Havlik has enjoyed collaboration with several fellow AFTA artists, such as storyteller Candace Wolf.
“As I became more immersed with an elder population through my artistic work, I became more engaged,” Wolf said. “The elderly population in our society is really isolated overall. I was encountering so many folks who seemed to be emotionally and socially cut off from others. As I designed my programs to meet the needs of this population, it was really important not just to delight people with stories, but to try to transcend this isolation using the narrative arts.”
The collaboration she did with Nancy emphasized, she said, “the movement of language, or the language of movement.” They designed a series focused on animals – what animal do you wish you were, what animal frightens you, etc.
Both women have led classes at Friends Club, a program for men with Alzheimer’s. Candace said she’s found storytelling techniques that can help trigger some memories, while Nancy recalls visiting with musician Anthony Hyatt, and watching the men dance as Anthony played “The Waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
"The whole room was alive, and probably in their early lives, they never imagined they would have done that," she said. "The energy had been transformed.”
About the Author: Holly Leber is the editorial director for The Daily Do Good. Upon learning about the benefits of arts programs for aging persons, she immediately emailed the information to her parents. For the, um, future.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION
“Dance can change the world. If you can dance, then you can start a revolution,” says Greg David, the current artistic director of Culture Shock DC.
CSDC operates as “a troupe of individuals who, through the power of music and dance, cultivate self-worth, dignity, and respect for all people…through professional entertainment and youth outreach,” according to the organization’s website. The organization emphasizes three things: community outreach, artist development, and innovative performance. The majority of the organization’s staff are volunteers who commit to keeping the company running and perform in addition to working other jobs full-time.
A nonprofit dance organization, Culture Shock DC was founded in 2001 by Margareta Chughtai, who was a core dancer with the original Culture Shock chapter in San Diego. After moving to the east coast, she and co-founder Brian Resurrection wanted to establish a branch of Culture Shock in the DMV area. In 2009, CSDC was incorporated as its own 501c(3) non-profit and has since grown to encompass five different dance crews and more than 120 dancers in the company overall.
Over the past 15 years, the company has gained a reputation for the level of excellence they bring to each performance, attracting members from as far away as Virginia Beach. “We offer something to dancers that makes the commute worth it,” said director of operations Cameron Bennett, who has been with the organization since 2012.
CSDC’s age-based dance crews allow it to cater to dancers of all ages. There are three programs for youth: Mini Shock (ages 5 and under), Mighty Shock (ages 6-13) and Future Shock (ages 14-17). As dancers progress in both age and skill, they can move up through the various crews — allowing them to maintain a connection to Culture Shock throughout their childhood.
CSDC’s youth program first took shape in October 2005, when Lisa Norman, a longtime dancer in the company, took over the program. “Future Shock started with thirteen kids… then ten months later we had 60 kids show up to audition,” said Lisa. CSDC’s reputation does most of its advertising for them, and they are able to draw large numbers of dancers to auditions through their events, word of mouth, and the performances they put on throughout the year.
“I wanted to take on Future Shock because as a child, I grew up with low income and my passion was to dance. This was my way of giving kids access to affordable dance, and giving back to the community,” Norman said. “To me, outreach is reaching out to any child in any neighborhood—our job as leaders or mentors is to help them no matter what. Outreach means reaching out, period”.
One of the most notable aspects of CSDC is the emphasis it places on community enrichment. Every Future Shock crew member has to maintain a 2.75 GPA in order to dance, and all are required to participate in community outreach events. CSDC does a wide variety of community service outside of its scheduled events, ranging from packaging potatoes and food for the needy to school performances. The shows at DC public schools function as a way to raise awareness of the power of dance to kids who wouldn’t typically think of dance as an outlet. Culture Shock dancers put on a performance and then teach the kids a routine.
“We get the kids involved, teach them movement, how to relate to a song on a fundamental level…it’s great to watch the kids be inspired and show them that dance is fun,” said Carolina Azcuna, a Culture Shock member who is entering her second season with the company. “To me, it represents community and education. Dance has brought me so many close friends, and I’ve learned so much through meeting people of all types of backgrounds.”
Many members of Culture Shock DC have been dancing from a young age, and joined the organization because of the impact that dance had on their own lives. “Dance to me is an outlet to let go,” Lisa said. “(It’s) a place you can go to not think about anything. Watching other people dance, especially kids, is emotional for me because I know what they’re feeling and I’m glad they can experience it.”
Culture Shock’s 7th annual Youth Showcase took place on March 20, 2016. All images from CultureShockDC.org or the company's YouTube page.
Staying cooped up anywhere can be difficult for anyone, but facing the four walls of a hospital room 24/7 can be especially tough -- draining even.
For nearly 20 years, Only Make Believe has brought happiness to thousands of children in hospitals and care facilities across the DC area through live interactive theater. To date, approximately 45,000 children have been impacted by OMB’s services, and that number continues to grow each year.
Because OMB knows that “freeing a child’s imagination is a valuable part of the healing process,” the organization works with a team of professional actors to provide interactive theater for sick children using nothing by a backdrop, along with a supply of props, costumes and imagination, of course.
What happens next is quite magical to say the least.
By the end of the show, the same children who were having the worst day imaginable and didn’t intend on participating are dancing, laughing and having fun.
Professional actor Chris Wilson, who joined OMB four years ago, calls days like these a job well done.
“Only Make Believe allows theater to become a truly immersive experience. The actors transform the space, interact with the audience, and adjust the show to the needs of each group of children,” Wilson said. “I am a firm believer that the performing arts have the ability to allow children to think and grasp concepts in a different way.”
Founded by Dena Hammerstein, OMB honors the legacy of her late husband James “for his dedication to the theater and her passionate love for children in need.” But, as soon as trips to the theater proved to be too much for many of the children, that’s when the idea of brining the magic of theater directly to them emerged.
“The majority of the children we serve do not have normal childhoods and suffer from chronic diseases and physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities,” said OMB Regional Director Tamela Aldridge. “Our performances are a rare opportunity for children to express themselves beyond the restrictions of their illness and experience hope, humor and healing.”
According to the OMB website, the actors spend six consecutive weeks and put on six different shows at each hospital, so the kids can get to know the actors and vice versa.
For the finale, OMB likes to flip the script, pun intended, by giving the children an opportunity to step into the spotlight and recreate all the past shows they’ve seen.
“We are portable, customizable and relatable,” Wilson said. “Our job is to cater to each child we serve. We have seen the impact our shows can have, and want to share this with the greater DC community.”
To bring the children some much-needed comfort, the props and costumes stay at the hospital long after those six weeks are over. Even better, all of OMB’s performances are free thanks to its generous supporters. Throughout the year, the nonprofit hosts several fundraising events, including 5k runs and cocktail parties.
Hours of work go into being able to properly execute each show and OMB’s dedicated volunteers play a crucial role by helping to set up shows and creating the costumes that are used in each performance.
Elementary school counselor Afton Cappello has been a volunteer at the organization since last summer. “I was drawn to OMB because I did theater in high school, and I love that the organization uses plays as a way to bring joy and comfort to kids who are going through something tough,” she said. “I love knowing that one of the hats I made will be given to a child and will make him or her so excited and bring them some happiness.”
OMB has garnered both local and national attention from many since bursting onto the scene in 1999 with a long list of accomplishments to its name. In addition to participating in the Children’s National Medical Center annual holiday party with First Lady Michelle Obama, OMB has received grant awards from the DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities, as well as several Ronald McDonald House Charities around the DC area.
Much of OMB’s success has to do with its longstanding partnerships with several local businesses and corporations, including Avenue Capital Group, Bloomberg and Disney, who make in-kind donations and co-facilitate arts events and smaller fundraisers.
While OMB serves as an escape for many children facing difficult times, Aldridge pointed out that the therapeutic power of theater also gives them the tools to bolster their self-confidence and outlook on their future.
“Only Make Believe taps into every child’s need to play. Often, children face the circumstances where they must deal with very adult issues,” Wilson added. “Our goal is make them forget these issues, if only for one hour, and allow themselves to be a kid. Our hope is that they keep this feeling with them and use it when they have the need.”
Finding the Superhero
As National Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, we wanted to shine a light on an organization working for individuals on the autism spectrum. And while the majority of DDG's featured orgs are based in the DC area, this one is so cool, we had to step outside our usual boundaries (hey, we all have to do that sometimes, right?): Face Value Comics, out of York, Pa., has created the first-ever autistic superhero. Founded by Dave Kot, who has autism, Face Value Comics helps spread the message of autism awareness, while also striving to help those on the autism spectrum improve their communication skills. Most of all, Face Value Comics allows people, especially teens, living with autism to see someone like themselves portrayed as a hero. You can support Face Value Comics by downloading issues for a donation.
The Power of A Picture
November 1st marked the 10th anniversary for Critical Exposure, where the education is multi-pronged: Teach students documentary photography skills, and teach them to use those skills to make a difference in their schools and communities.
“The photography is a way to engage the students,” said executive director Adam Levner. “The combination of the photography and the advocacy is really a very intentional process. What we’re seeking to do is to develop students who can become civic leaders because they have experiences rooted in communities and schools. “
Critical Exposure works with low-income students in DC area high schools, offering both afterschool programs and in-school partnerships at no cost.
There are three primary benefits to the students, Adam said.
First, they learn that they have the right to question things, and more importantly, to try and change what they believe is not right. Presently, Critical Exposure fellowship students are using their photography and advocacy skills to protest the school-to-prison pipeline, which pushes at-risk students, often minorities, out of the education system and into the penal one.
Second, they learn the power of collaboration and working together.
And third, they get to see that people value what they have to say. “The young people we work with are often told they don’t have anything to say of value,” said Adam, “so for them to testify in front of city council, or to have their photos at an art gallery, is validating for them.”
Worth a Million Words
As a teenager, Delonte Williams wasn't headed down what one might call the right path. He had, he said, an "I don't care" attitude.
"I was willing to put myself in a bad situation," he said. "I was exposed to hurt and I never found anyone who taught me how to deal with it."
Expelled from his first high school, Delonte re-enrolled at Luke C. Moore High School. It was there that he first encountered Critical Exposure. It was through the program that Delonte said he felt respected for the first time.
"They gave me a chance to share my pain rather than telling me what they think is right," he said. "In Critical Exposure, I felt like I would be accepted no matter what I said."
Through conversations about leadership and advocacy, Delonte learned about right and wrong, and about systems of power. He also learned about the power of a photograph.
"I didn't think about how much meaning (a photo) had until I thought about using one for change," he said. "A picture is probably worth more than a thousand words. Maybe a million."
"I live in a SE neighborhood called 37th. There is a view near my house that shows town houses that clearly differ from the houses in my neighborhood. They are bigger, more expensive and isn't as lively as the neighborhood I live in. I don't ever see anyone in the other neighborhood but I see a lot of cars so I know it's occupied. It's like they watch us while we watch them, except they probably see us more than we see them." - Delonte Williams
Today, Delonte, now 21, is a facilitator for Critical Exposure. He received his high school diploma in 2013. He leads students only a few years younger than himself, taking them through the process of planning projects, and identifying and tackling issues. He wants to give them the same self-confidence he gained.
"I want them to understand the power of youth voices. I believe young people have a very strong voice. I think they can make history. I want to encourage them."
And what about? What does Delonte believe the future holds for him?
"Hopefully a changed world."
Through the Lens
Critical Exposure teaches students about leadership and advocacy through the process of documentary photography. The following photographs were submitted by Critical Exposure. They represent the work of the students who participate in the program.
New vs. Old
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
The 2013-2014 Fellowship class at Critical Exposure has been turning their lenses on the school-to-prison pipeline, in which disciplinary practices and zero-tolerance policies in DC city schools force more students away from their education and toward the risk of incarceration. The students are advocating the implementation of a restorative justice program in DC schools.
The following text is a transcript of a speech delivered by Critical Exposure student Gina, on Nov. 13, at the District of Columbia Public School FY15 Budget Hearing. The videos were produced by members of the 2013-2104 Fellowship class.
Good Evening Chancellor Henderson. Thank you for hosting this meeting and giving DC youth the opportunity to speak.
My name is Gina. I’m a senior at Luke C. Moore High School and I live in Ward 8. I am speaking on behalf of the Critical Exposure Fellowship Program. We are a group of DC Youth working to implement restorative justice programs in DC.
What is Restorative Justice? Restorative Justice practices reduce the need for unjust punishments and suspensions, by building a community within the school where students feel supported. Restorative Justice programs are being successfully adopted in public school districts across the country, including some schools in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Students in DC are being pushed out of schools by harsh discipline. My younger brother, for example, gets suspended every time he steps into schools for minor reasons. The last time he was suspended for 10 days because he spoke out of turn in class. Another time it was because he was not wearing the correct uniform. In the 2011-2012 school year there were more than 10,000 suspensions in the DCPS school system. If we start using Restorative Justice we can decrease that number, and benefit the students as well as the administrators. We believe that Restorative Justice programs will also prevent fights and other incidents, decrease the rate of student dropouts, and increase graduation rates.
We want to ask you to include funds to start a Restorative Justice pilot program in a DCPS high school for the Fiscal Year 2015. We have collected over 100 signatures from DC residents in support of our campaign, including Councilmember David Grosso, Monica Warren-Jones from the DC State Board of Education, and DCPS teachers, parents and students who believe in Restorative Justice. On behalf of the Critical Exposure Fellows, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to our ideas.