We’re celebrating 20 years!

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Living Arts is celebrating 20 years of exceptional arts education services in 2019! Since our founding in 1999, we've connected more than 50,000 children and families to high quality arts and youth development experiences throughout the entire city.

We can't wait to celebrate our history--and future--with you this year.

Already, our students, parents, teaching artists and other community members have shared so many stories with us about the ways that Living Arts has impacted their lives. We would love to hear from you too and hope you will take a moment to share your Living Arts memories, photos and videos. 

Throughout 2019 there will be many ways you can join Living Arts in celebrating our milestone achievement: 

AN EVENING FOR LIVING ARTS | Join us on Thursday, April 11  from 6:30-8:30 pm for a benefit performance hosted by Sterling Toles at the Masonic Temple from 6:30-8:30 pm on Enjoy visual and performing art exhibitions, mingling with friends over strolling hors d'oeuvres, a premium open bar, and complimentary valet parking. VIPs will be treated to a behind-the-scenes tour, a special lounge, and Detroit swag. Renowned street artist Jason "Revok" Williams will be our Honored Guest and help launch a $100,000 endowment initiative for our 20th anniversary year!

20th ANNUAL STUDENT SHOWCASE | Bring your family and friends on Sunday, June 9, 2019 to see our students and teaching artists share a year of dance, visual arts, and animation excellence. 

OPEN ART FEST | Spend an August afternoon in Southwest Detroit engaged in art making, workshops, open mic spots, and more visual, performing and media arts activities designed by our very own Living Arts students. The date for the 2019 Open Art Fest community event will be announced soon! 

OPEN STAGE | Experience a fun night of local talent as Living Arts teaching artists, students, staff, families and community members take to the stage to inspire and entertain. Stay tuned for more details about this fall event.

We can't wait to share more anniversary program updates with you soon and introduce you to new staff members who will expand our capacity to serve Detroit youth.

Thank you, sincerely, for being a partner in our work. We look forward to seeing you at one (or more!) of our events this year!

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Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director

Living Arts' Standout Students

Vanessa Galaviz and Alexis Harris in  The Nutcracker  at the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Vanessa Galaviz and Alexis Harris in The Nutcracker at the Michigan Opera Theatre.

We are pleased to share that two of our students, Vanessa Galaviz and Alexis Harris, performed professionally last month in the Cincinnati Ballet and the Michigan Opera Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker.

Vanessa and Alexis are long-time students of Living Arts, each studying multiple disciplines with us including tap, ballet, pointe and jazz, and are no strangers to dancing for large crowds. While Alexis may have been nervous before the first performance at the 2,700 seat theater, once she was onstage “it felt like home.” Vanessa previously appeared in The Nutcracker in 2014 with the Moscow Ballet.

While working with the professional dancers, Alexis and Vanessa learned a great deal. “It was really fun working with professionals,” stated Alexis. “You got to see behind the scenes of a big production. You got to meet people who do this every day and really helped us see how it will be if we further our career in dance.” Vanessa’s favorite part of working on the production was running the show with all of the dancers. “I would get goosebumps,” she said. “It just made it complete.”

From  The Nutcracker: March of the Toy Soldiers

From The Nutcracker: March of the Toy Soldiers

Both young women said the production has solidified their interest in pursuing further education in dance, and possibly a career. “My favorite thing about dance is being able to express yourself in a different way. I myself don’t like to talk in front of people, but given the opportunity to dance in front of people, I do it in a heartbeat” said Alexis. Vanessa agreed, stating that “my favorite thing about dancing is being able to capture someone’s eye. I’ve danced before where after the show someone came up to me and said ‘You gave me chills, you have a gift’ and that just meant so much to me. Not everyone has the ability to tell a story with movement but having that gift is special to me.”

“We are so proud of Vanessa and Alexis.” stated Dance Program Director Marianne Brass. “They are deeply dedicated to dance, and performing in a production of this caliber is a testament to their talent and hard work.”

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Vanessa Galaviz is a 16 year-old student at Cass Technical High School. In addition to dancing with Living Arts, Vanessa is a member of the Ballet Folklorico De Detroit troupe, and dances with the Cass Tech Dance Workshop.

Alexis Harris is a 17 year-old student from Western International High School. She is the co-captain of Western’s volleyball team.

Want to take an innovative solution in early childhood education to the next level? We’re hiring a Program Manager!

Living Arts is hiring a full-time Program Manager to oversee the growing Detroit Wolf Trap (DWT) program. The DWT Program Manager will work within the Living Arts' Program Team to develop, implement, and evaluate early childhood arts education programs in Head Start, Early Head Start, informal care, and community-based classrooms. The DWT Program Manager will be responsible for the supervision, evaluation, and professional development of the DWT Teaching Artist team.

Detroit Wolf Trap Teaching Artist, Alesha Mickens, leads a Detroit Wolf Trap lesson in a Head Start classroom.

Detroit Wolf Trap Teaching Artist, Alesha Mickens, leads a Detroit Wolf Trap lesson in a Head Start classroom.

Living Arts’ mission, which began 20 years ago in SW Detroit, is to engage youth, teachers, and families in experiences in the performing, visual, literary, and media arts.

We are seeking a self-starter with ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, 2 or more years’ experience working within arts or education — ideally with early learners — and some experience managing and coaching others.

The Detroit Wolf Trap Program Manager will be paid between $33,000 - $38,000 with benefits including healthcare and retirement.

If you believe this is the right position for you, we sincerely encourage you to apply! Details about specific responsibilities and ideal qualifications are listed on the job description here.

Application Extended To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director at alissa@livingartsdetroit.org by January 15, 2019.

Living Arts Seeks a Program Evaluator

Living Arts is accepting proposals for an Evaluation Partner to conduct the second phase of our evaluation for our Detroit Wolf Trap early learning program. This three-year study, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will measure the impact the program has on teacher growth through the following central question:

Does professional development in arts integration through the performing arts (Detroit Wolf Trap) demonstrate growth for early childhood educators in their abilities in 1) Instructional Learning Formats and 2) Concept Development?

Proposals are due December 20, 2018 to Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director, at Alissa@livingartsdetroit.org

More information on the project, budget, and timeline can be found here.

Detroit Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Karilú Alarcón Forshee provides arts-integrated professional development for a classroom teacher.

Detroit Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Karilú Alarcón Forshee provides arts-integrated professional development for a classroom teacher.

Living Arts is Hiring a Communications Manager

Living Arts is hiring a Communications Manager to help us better tell the story of our youth, teaching artists, and work! Our mission, which began 20 years ago in SW Detroit, engages youth, teachers, and families in experiences in the performing, visual, literary, and media arts.

The Communications Manager will work closely with the entire Living Arts team to refine our communications goals and develop a strategy and timeline for meeting benchmarks. In addition to external storytelling and promotional strategy, the Communications Manager will assist with data entry and analysis around key stakeholder groups.

Students in a printmaking workshop at Open Arts Fest led by Director of Programs, Erika Villarreal Bunce.

Students in a printmaking workshop at Open Arts Fest led by Director of Programs, Erika Villarreal Bunce.

For this position we are seeking candidates with at least two years of experience in media, communications, and storytelling. We are open to candidates with backgrounds in non-profit communications, fundraising, media, public relations, journalism or other relevant experience.

This is a full-time position with a salary of $33,000 - $38,000 and benefits. The ideal start date is January 14, 2019.

If you believe this is the right position for you, we sincerely encourage you to apply! Details about the specific responsibilities of the job are listed on the job description here.

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and at least two samples of work (e-newsletter, blog post, annual report, etc.) to alissa@livingartsdetroit.org by December 6, 2018.

Living Arts Wins 2018 Knight Arts Challenge

Marquee, The Fillmore, November 7, 2018 -- Photo: Andrew Potter, Knight Foundation

Marquee, The Fillmore, November 7, 2018 -- Photo: Andrew Potter, Knight Foundation

With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2018 Knight Arts Challenge, Living Arts will bring together artists and residents to design a film installation series that will be displayed on street walls in Southwest and throughout Detroit. The installations will be created in partnership with media artist Sacramento Knoxx and will feature a series of dance workshops and performances by Southwest artists, youth, and residents. These dance events will be led by Living Arts, Motor City Street Dance Academy, Ballet Folklorico Moyokoyani Izel and Compás, capturing modern, break, folklorico, Afro-Latin, and more. Through consensus-building sessions, the community will identify locations and themes for the site-specific work, focusing on dance as resistance. This project will challenge notions about the art, culture, and identity that stems from the Southwest Detroit community, embracing the power of dance to bring together people to leverage the power of their bodies in expression

The project is funded by the Knight Foundation.

The project is funded by the Knight Foundation.

The series of films will be installed on walls in conjunction with the Arise Detroit! Neighborhoods Day.

Knight Foundation previously funded our community performance series Teatro Chico.

Do you wish to receive regular updates on this project? Sign up for our e-newsletter today.

Read the Knight Foundation press release.

Katy Locker, Program Director Knight Arts Detroit, Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director Living Arts, Erika Villarreal Bunce, Director of Programs Living Arts, Victoria Rogers, VP Knight Arts

Katy Locker, Program Director Knight Arts Detroit, Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director Living Arts, Erika Villarreal Bunce, Director of Programs Living Arts, Victoria Rogers, VP Knight Arts

Living Arts Welcomes Three New Board Members

Living Arts is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to our Board of Directors: Michelle Cantor, Terrence West, and Candace Griffin. This group of Detroit professionals brings a wealth of knowledge and individual passions for youth arts education. "We are very excited to welcome Michelle, Terrence, and Candace to the Living Arts team and look forward to building more opportunities for Detroit youth, together," said Alissa Novoselick, Executive Director. "Each one of these individuals has the necessary skills to help deepen and propel our work in unique and valuable ways."

From L to R: Michelle Cantor, Terrence West, and Mary Griffin.

From L to R: Michelle Cantor, Terrence West, and Mary Griffin.

For more than 20 years, Michelle Tenner Cantor has been a driver of thought leadership and strategic direction relative to organizational and talent development, including eight years of change management consulting with Fortune 500 companies, such as ComEd, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.A., Ford Motor Company and Dow Chemical Co. As the Founder and President of Volar Consulting, LLC in metropolitan Detroit, Cantor has a demonstrated track record of designing and implementing successful Diversity and Inclusion programs, which integrate strategic planning, leadership coaching, and organizational culture development. She is the founder of Conscious Leadership℠, an interactive training experience that gets to the heart of understanding the power of unconscious biases and how we can both individually and collectively create a more inclusive and productive work environment.

Candace Griffin has a talent for creating inviting, and unique spaces. With a background in residential staging and interior decorating, her company Candace Mary Interiors specializes in partnering with realtors and homeowners to sell their properties quicker and at top market value. Candace’s approach focuses on highlighting the personality of each space. More than just aesthetic, she believes great interior design is about the feeling when you connect with a home you love and imagine the life you want within it.  Her ability to mix timeless pieces with modern elements gives her the edge to create distinctive spaces that make a statement. Her unique design sense is inspired by living in Chicago, San Francisco, and traveling the world. Originally from Lansing and now residing in the motor city with her wife and puppy! She enjoys good food, good company, and good design. 

A native of Detroit, Terrence West is a graduate of the University of Iowa and specializes in marketing and communications. Currently serving as the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Michigan Science Center, Terrence has also worked with VanDyke Horn Public Relations and Berg Muirhead & Associates Public Relations. In addition to these roles, Terrence has also lent his skills as a pro bono marketing consultant with Coalition for the Future of Detroit Children, Reach Beyond Institute of Detroit, and Friends of Misha Stallworth, amongst others. He serves on the board of Black Family Development, and has done extensive work with the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW).

Living Arts receives $540,000 commitment to support early childhood outcomes in Detroit

Partnership support comes from CFSEM, Erb, Kresge, and W.K. Kellogg Foundations

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Living Arts, a Detroit nonprofit that brings high quality and year-round arts education to the city’s youth, is proud to announce it has received several multi-year grants totaling over a half million dollars to support the expansion of Detroit Wolf Trap, a program that will provide intensive professional development, mentoring and coaching for Detroit area early childhood educators, parents, and caregivers by introducing them to proven performing arts-integration strategies through classroom residences and professional development workshops.

Read the press release.

Meet Our New Hip Hop Teaching Artist Daijiro Tsushima

Living Arts' New Hip Hop Teaching Artist Daijiro Tsushima

Living Arts' New Hip Hop Teaching Artist Daijiro Tsushima

Daijiro Tsushima was born on May 23rd, 1984 in the city of Taipei, Taiwan, from a Japanese father and a Hawaiian mother.  He was only 3 when his father received an opportunity to relocate to Detroit, Michigan to work in the new branch his automotive company was opening. And so, along with his wife and two sons, he set out to America and to a new life.

It was thanks to this move, that Daijiro’s journey in street dance would begin at the early age of 7. Pioneer street dance films like “Beat Street” (1984) and “Breakin’” (1984) represented the root of his inspiration, along with the countless Hip Hop and R&B music videos, which densely populated the 90’s television airwaves. Those videos and films, which redefined and helped forge an entire generation of street dancers, showcased every style from from Hip Hop, to Popping, to Locking, to House, to Breaking, in both choreographed and freestyle forms. 

It wasn’t however, until Daijiro was 23 that he felt a deep-seated urge to pursue dance as a career. His conviction led him to travel to some of the most important American dance meccas outside the Motor City, that is, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, and L.A, to learn from the best of the best. He would attend workshops from world class street dancers like Mr. Wiggles, Buddha Stretch, Lynk, Caleaf, and many more.
 
Now, a decade later, after the numerous competitions, performances, and teaching/community building initiatives, Daijiro wishes to uphold his role as a mentor for the next generation of street dancers, not only by sharing his technical savvy, but also by sharing the histories and cultures behind these different styles of dance. These histories and cultures never cease to inform his knowledge as a Dancer and to forge the backbone of his identity as an Artist.
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Daijiro Tsushima nació el 23 de mayo, 1984 en la ciudad de Taipei, Taiwan de un padre japonés y una madre hawaiana. Solo tenía 3 años cuando su padre encontró una oportunidad de mudarse a Detroit, Michigan para trabajar en una nueva sucursal de una compañía de autos. Entonces, con su esposo y dos hijos, se mudó a los Estados Unidos y su nueva vida.

Gracias a esa relocación, el trayecto de Daijiro en el baile callejero empezó a los 7 años. Películas pioneras del baile callejero como "Beat Street" (1984) y "Breakin" (1984) fundaron los raices de su inspiración, además de incontables videos de música de Hip Hop y R&B que populaban las televisiones de los años 90. Esos videos y películas, que redefinieron y ayudaron a forjar una generación completa de bailadores callejeros, exhibieron todos los estilos desde Hip Hop, a Popping, a Locking, a House, a Breaking, en formas coreografiadas y de estilo libre. 

Sin embargo, no fue hasta que Daijiro tenía 23 años que sintió un impulso profundo por seguir la carrera de baile. Su convicción le llevó a viajar a algunas de las meccas de baile estadounidenses más importantes fuera del Motor City, como la ciudad de Nueva York, Chicago, Atlanta y L.A, para aprender de lo mejor de lo mejor. Asistiría a talleres de bailadores callejeros de clase mundial como Mr. Wiggles, Buddha Stretch, Lynk, Caleaf y muchos más.

Ahora, una década más tarde, después de las numerosas competiciones, presentaciones y iniciativas de enseñanza / construcción comunitaria, Daijiro desea mantener su papel como mentor de la próxima generación de bailadores callejeros, no solo por compartir su conocimiento técnico, sino también por compartir las historias y culturas detrás de estos diferentes estilos de baile. Estas historias y culturas nunca dejan de informar a su conocimiento como bailador y forjar la columna vertebral de su identidad como artista.  

Open Stage for Living Arts

Join us on Wednesday, September 26th for Open Stage for Living Arts. An evening of vocal artistry, music, poetry, dance and performance art featuring Mahogany Jones and Karilú Alarcón Forshee, Open mic opportunities are available to anyone, so share your talents or cheer on the performers. The event will take place  from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. at Mexicantown favorite La Terraza,  

Suggested cover: $5 per adult and $1 per child. Cover includes appetizers and soft drinks. A cash bar and full menu will be available for purchase.

5 minute performance slots are available on a first come first serve basis. For more information, please contact robyn@livingartsdetroit.org.

La Terraza is located at 8445 Vernor, Detroit MI, 48209.

Get the press release.

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Mahogany Jones

Mahogany Jones

Karilú Alarcón Forshee

Karilú Alarcón Forshee

Living Arts Receives Funding from Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions

Living Arts is pleased to announce that we have received funding from Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions for our Detroit Wolf Trap program. In our most recently completed program year, Detroit Wolf Trap reached more than 600 young children, 200 caregivers/parents, and 80 early childhood educators in the city and metro Detroit area. Thank you to Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions for your support!

Read the press release here

A Detroit Wolf Trap family involvement class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

A Detroit Wolf Trap family involvement class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Living Arts receives $540,000 commitment to support early childhood outcomes in Detroit

Partnership support comes from CFSEM, Erb, Kresge, and W.K. Kellogg Foundations

DETROIT, Mich. (July 2018) – Living Arts, a Detroit nonprofit that brings high quality and year-round arts education to the city’s youth, is proud to announce it has received several multi-year grants totaling over a half million dollars to support the expansion of Detroit Wolf Trap, a program that will provide intensive professional development, mentoring and coaching for Detroit area early childhood educators, parents, and caregivers by introducing them to proven performing arts-integration strategies through classroom residences and professional development workshops.

Teaching Artist Alesha Mickens uses music to engage young learners in a Living Arts' Detroit Wolf Trap Class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Teaching Artist Alesha Mickens uses music to engage young learners in a Living Arts' Detroit Wolf Trap Class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

“This generous partnership will amplify and deepen Detroit Wolf Trap’s proven impact on teachers, parents, and students in classrooms and homes across Detroit, by elevating the role and effectiveness of educators and caregivers in supporting the early education of our region's youngest children,” said Alissa Novoselick, executive director of Living Arts. “It is exciting to know that these organizations are working collectively to  ensure that not only the children but the adults engaged through Detroit Wolf Trap programming will meet achievable goals to continue best practice for early learning through the arts,” added Roberta Lucas, master teaching artist and Detroit Wolf Trap’s founding director.  

The contributing organizations -- Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation -- will provide long-term classroom residences for children ages 3 months to Kindergarten. Additionally, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s award will enable Living Arts to expand evaluation efforts to demonstrate the positive impact Detroit Wolf Trap has on the teaching practices of early childhood educators in Detroit. Living Arts’ Wolf Trap program, an affiliate of the national Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, has proven to strengthen children’s literacy, math, science and social emotional skills in its first phase of evaluation, completed in 2017.

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than $1 billion through nearly 65,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair, and Livingston counties. For more information, please visit www.cfsem.org.

The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation’s mission is nurturing environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant communities in metro Detroit, consistent with sustainable business models, and supporting initiatives to restore the Great Lakes Ecosystem. Established in 2007, the foundation funds grant applications that benefit the environment, arts, and Alzheimer’s research.

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. Kresge’s Detroit Program collaborates with civic, nonprofit and business partners to promote and expand long-term, equitable opportunity in Kresge’s hometown for its current and future residents. For more information visit kresge.org.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

About Living Arts

Founded in 1999, Living Arts is a nonprofit organization that engages Detroit youth, teachers and families in transformative experiences in the performing, visual, literary and media arts. Implementing arts education programs for nearly 3,000 early learners, elementary and secondary students annually, Living Arts’ programs increase youth’s academic achievement, develops leadership and artistic skills, and strengthens schools and communities.

Living Arts receives support from the Ford Motor Company Fund, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Dresner Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Foundation, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, ITC, and PNC Foundation.

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Get to Know Living Arts' Newest Board Member

Living Arts Board Member Cintia Pugliese.

Living Arts Board Member Cintia Pugliese.

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at 13 years of age moved to Michigan with my family, since my dad was offered a job at Ford Motor Company.  While his initial offer was for a 3-year assignment, it eventually got extended until he officially retired from the company a few years ago.

My family and I have learned so many life skills from this major life adjustment, including, but not limited to, resilience, strength, patience, and perseverance. We also have formed and developed an unbreakable bond as a family unit that I feel is so strong because of all the obstacles we had to overcome at both the individual and collective level as a family unit.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something related to teaching but I also enjoyed the analytical side of things, which made it perplexing when it was time to choose a major.  After some consideration, I chose to major in Psychology at Oakland University and graduated in 2002.

I started working full-time when I was fairly young, at 19 years of age.  I learned so much from having a full-time career and going to school at night, such as discipline, accountability and responsibility.

As far as work experience goes, I have experience in purchasing, such as conducting purchase orders, bidding processes, managing supplier relationships, preparing documents for customs, and communicating with customers.  As a Spanish instructor/tutor, I have experience teaching to individuals as well as to groups, preparing lesson plans, and giving individualized homework. It is so fulfilling to watch my students’ progress and help them along the way.

As a proud mom of a 14-year old son (Jack), I knew I wanted to get involved and make a positive impact in children’s lives, so when my friend Anne Osmer introduced me to Living Arts, I felt that was perfect timing to get involved and help a great cause.  I’m looking forward to helping our youth with this wonderful organization.




 

Meet our 2018 Peer Mentors

Living Arts is pleased to offer two peer mentor positions to Out-of-School Arts students for a third consecutive year. Peer mentors assist in The SPOT Teen Open Studio class, working closely with the class teacher and leading their peers. This program is made possible with support from the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs New Leaders Grant.

Tanykia "Diamond" Davis

Tanykia "Diamond" Davis

Tanykia “Diamond” Davis is a 16 year old artist and entrepreneur. She has been dancing competitively for three years with Living Arts and has been helping her community since 2012. She attends University Preparatory Academy and will graduate in 2019. Diamond is very proud that she could help connect with peers and create something they are excited about as participant in The SPOT and one of Living Arts’ first Peer Mentors in summer 2016. Diamond says she feels accomplished knowing that she’s moved on to other parts of her life while having helped people along the way.  

"Through our summer project, I am hoping to get more experience and opportunities to learn about event planning, budgeting, and collaborating with artists to curate exhibitions. I am also hoping to find ways to allow our students to have a good time in an event that is geared towards them, and gain good experience out of the opportunity. This will also give me good experience as I work towards studying business in my college career."

Karla Rodriguez

Karla Rodriguez

Karla Rodriguez is a 14 year old student in Cass Tech High School’s class of 2021. and has participated Living Arts’ Out-of School Arts programs since 2015 and was present at the very first meeting of The SPOT that year. Karla says she “fell in love with the program right from there” and she has continued to a constant, regular participant and contributors. Karla continued, “Now I often find myself helping new artists in the program find their way around the studio. But by far the best part of The SPOT has be the instructors—they are the ones that help provide the care-free and open atmosphere!” 

"I am hoping to gain better planning skills as a result of planning the event for Living Arts. I also hope to strengthen my leadership skills within a group. I think that as a result of this exhibition, it will help attract more children and teens to The SPOT and other Living Arts programs."
 

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Learning From the Inside Out

April 16th is recognized nationally as The Week of the Young Child™, an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. As we prepare to close out the week, Living Arts Detroit Wolf Trap teaching artist, Alesha Nicole, shares below recent gleanings about the process of learning through newly opened eyes as a mother of a young child. Alesha leads Detroit Wolf Trap experiences for families every week at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

It is an innate desire, an intuitive harmony, and an inexplicable fulfillment of an inherent need. “In” – the prefix of each descriptive word here. It is a phenomenon that takes place IN us. Our connection to music is something that translates, traverses, and transforms, all the while uniting and relating one being to another. So often we forget how early this begins for us. It truly is part of our make-up, a gift given to us by our Creator, and once we are born, we begin to explore that gift in our earliest years of development. This is the awesome wonder of music in early childhood education.

Alesha Nicole teaching a BabyArtsPlay!™ class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

Alesha Nicole teaching a BabyArtsPlay!™ class. Photo by Julianne Lindsey.

In everything that we model for them, we are teaching our early learners so much about themselves and being a part of society. My son is now seven months old, and he has been part of both Living Arts’ In-School and Out-of School programs ever since he was an embryo in my womb.  It is amazing to watch what he is picking up on his own with not only developmental milestones, but also with his own connection to music budding in his twenty-six inches and sixteen pounds of joy and fervor. While he’s with me in the three-to-four year old classes, I see what I have to look forward to in a few years. They are using their imagination, singing and playing at the same time, and recognizing music’s contribution and participation in stories and playtime.  My son also joins me in an after school music program with kindergarteners, and I am currently preparing them for a performance. As they eagerly get ready to demonstrate skills they’ve learned in music class for their families, they are having many “aha” moments.

The series of classes, “From the Inside Out,” has been centered on the understanding that music begins inside of us and then reveals itself in performance, expression, and creativity.  The children are using what they’ve learned about steady beat, rhythm, using the head voice, chest voice, and diaphragm to implement all of these concepts in a medley of songs. It is amazing what their five year old beings are uncovering. There are musicians inside of all of us. 

Early learners remind us so much about the enthusiasm and excitement of just being alive. Every new skill is delightful for them. Whether it be clapping, stomping, singing, playing an instrument, or keeping the beat, it is something to be happy about!

One significant experience comes to mind. I was six months pregnant, sitting at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center for a day of family involvement classes that I lead with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. In between spoonfuls of greek yogurt and other brand new cravings, I was having a thread of beautiful moments with young children as they explored music in brand new ways. It was as if they and I were simultaneously sharing that pure, innocent, new zeal for life.

I was teaching a mixed age group from infants to three year olds. We were in the middle of a series called “Sounds All Around Us,” in which we explored musical elements like steady beat, rhythm, tempo, pitch, and tone through objects in our surroundings, and body parts.  Every class begins with singing our Hello Song, written by Ella Jenkins, circled around our big drum as we open up the experience through a sense of community and togetherness. On this particular day, part of our main activity was using the colorful lightweight balls to discover sounds with the drum in unconventional ways.  As we had done before, we set the balls on the drum, and the sweet tots took much delight in watching as the balls bounced off of the drum like popcorn when they hit it with their hands. The harder they hit the drum, the higher the balls bounced. The more hands we had hitting the drum, the more power we had. This was so enjoyable for them. We continued to play with the drum in new ways. I sat on the floor, flipping the drum over and tilting it up, and I asked them one leading question:

“How else could we use the balls to get a sound out of this drum?”

There was silence as they thought hard about this question.  I took one ball in my hand and, with much anticipation, threw it inside the drum--this was very exciting! Two twin brothers grabbed the balls and began throwing them with all of their might.  Not only was this supportive of gross motor development, but they were learning so much about cause and effect. The booming sound of the drum was a like a special rewarding treat every time they hit it using their pitcher’s arms. What a neat way to make science and music into a fun game!

In a world full of iPads, video games, TVs, smart phones, and other technology, it is so encouraging to be a part of moments of like these. We have to remember what it’s like to interact and interconnect with the people and tangible things around us. Music is just one method of doing this--it’s our shared language and the miracle of sound evolving into a sensation we do not have words to explain.

About the author: Alesha Nicole is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and arts educator. Along with working as a Teaching Artist with Living Arts, Alesha writes, produces, and releases her own music. She released her first album "Smiling Through Tears" in 2012 and her second album "Spread Love, Share Joy" in 2014. She will release her third album, "In Spirit In Truth," this year through a live recording event. She truly enjoys empowering youth and adults through the arts. It is the perfect combination of creativity and interconnectivity that inspires her to share her gifts and her fun-loving spirit with the world. She dreams of using her musical talents as a tool in spiritual healing, self discovery, uniting communities, and bringing reconciliation to families at a full-time capacity. AleshaNicole also serves as the worship leader at her church. Alesha is a bilingual artist, with a B.A. in Spanish from Oakland University, and is currently teaching the Baby Arts Play family involvement classes. She loves this company and all of its amazing people. This weekend on Saturday, April 21st 11am-1pm, Alesha can be found leading a music-centered Detroit Wolf Trap experience at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center (Mexicantown Mercado) at Detroit Public Television’s “Word Ready, School Ready” event for early learners--please join us at 2826 Bagley St. Detroit, MI 48216. http://www.dptv.org/education/word-ready-school-ready/