RAAC summer programming gives youth authentic arts experience

From Rockford Area Arts Council

Summer means fun and RAAC Camp certainly qualifies. For two weeks Ellis School is transformed into an arts camp for youth between five and 13 years old. This year the teams were led by professional artists including: Isaiah Davis, Aanjae Patterson and Amari Lambert, former RAAC Campers, Penna Broman, David Causey, Anabel Morales and Akio, Dorothy Paige-Turner, Esteban Perez and Mathew Taden. The coordinator who kept things running like a well-oiled machine was Jenny Golden. The finale was produced with the talent of Brad Koloch, Darrell Polka, Lakeshia Rainey Wingo, Toni Stratton, former ArtsPlace Apprentice, and Jaelon Turner.

This year the program included 63 kids who learned video production, dance, theater, vocal music and hip hop. The video team did a public service announcement about putting down our devices, a great depiction of how a family should interact at the dinner table. We are so fortunate to have donors and partners who believe in this 20 year program: City of Rockford, Illinois Arts Council Agency, RPS 205, Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, United Way and a very generous Arts Angel.

We are now in the thick of RAAC ArtsPlace program, teaching job skills through the arts. Professional artists for the 2015 season are former ArtsPlace Apprentices Nathan Davis and Maya Simmons, Corey Hagberg, Penna Broman, Meaghan Baylor and guest artists from the Rockford Dance Company under the leadership of Bruce McDonald who has been with the program for 13 years. ArtPlace Apprentices turned ArtsPlace Interns are Adrienne Anderson and Isaiah Davis.

Mural artist Corey Hagberg and his team are in the process of developing another mural. Last year’s team did the mural under the Jefferson Street Bridge on Madison Street. “We are going to be producing a team based collaborative project focusing on building trust within a team,” Hagberg said.

RAAC ArtsPlace uses spaces at Riverfront Museum Park in the Rockford Dance Company’s spaces and Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center. We are so fortunate to have partners that share our vision and are willing to accommodate our program in their authentic creative spaces.

The teams will also be in the community with their art. On July 17 they will be performing at 11 a.m. at Schnuck’s, 6410 East State Street, to kick-off Kiwanis Brat Days again. They will also be at City Market that day facilitating the arts activity for the “Off the Chain Link” project. City Marketers will be invited to paint CD’s that will be installed at the CD mural on Madison at Scandroli Construction. Teams will then help with the community-wide installation of phase one on Monday, July 27 from noon-3 p.m., all are invited.

“This year the apprentices will come away with an understanding of how their art can serve the world; what makes them happy, what concerns them, and how their work can reflect that to the larger community,” said RAAC Education and Engagement Director, Sharon Nesbit-Davis. Nesbit-Davis has been the dedicated, caring backbone and heart of this program for 20 years.


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