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Artist residency based on the local history of the Underground Railroad

Young Audiences of Western New York, an arts provider for children, has created an artist residency for schools based on the local history of the Underground Railroad.
The new effort has two goals. First, Young Audiences was looking to bring more African-American artists onto its roster of 150 regional and national artists, and, second, it wanted to create a program to help children understand racial and social disparities. The local history of the Underground Railroad seemed a natural fit to tie to these goals, and funding from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo allowed the 48-year-old organization to make it happen.
The intensive multi-arts educational series has created business partnerships and put artists to work.  The primary outlet for the program is in schools across Western New York’s eight counties, where it will be offered next year. This year, the program is being piloted at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, Lovejoy Discovery School and Holley Elementary School.
“We started with an outstanding advisory committee, which included our lead artist, award-winning playwright Annette Daniels-Taylor,” said YAWNY Executive Director Cynnie Gaasch. “A partnership with Ujima Co. allowed us access to the artistic and educational excellence of Lorna C. Hill and Executive Director Rahwa Ghirmatzion’s ties to outstanding African-American artists. This project has been inspiring to everyone involved and has created income-earning opportunities for African-American artists.”
The Underground Railroad residency is modeled on Young Audiences’ successful Erie Canal residency, which incorporates hands-on participation in theater, music, and creative writing.  This residency has been offered in 18 schools in Western New York over the past several years, the majority from Buffalo Public Schools.
“We are currently fundraising in order to offer the Underground Railroad residency in 20 schools during the 2010-2011 school year,” Gaasch said.
Some of the workshops from the residency will premiere to the public soon. Workshops open to the public in the next two weeks are as follows:
Saturday – Rodney Appleby works with families as they adopt roles from slavery, including slave catchers, escaped slaves and abolitionists; make choices; and consider their consequences in Perspectives.
April 3 – Ntare Ali Gault’s workshop allows families to explore their own history. Ballet La Touba, led by Robin Monique, completes the series with a celebration of African culture through drum and dance.

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