Assistant Professor of Education Mary Kelly was recently awarded a Challenge America Fast-Track grant by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that will help fund The Arts Experience: A Festival Celebrating Inclusion and the Arts, a weeklong program hosted at the Colleges April 16 through April 27.
The NEA’s Challenge America Fast-Track program Challenge America grants are given in support of projects that help provide arts experiences to those who are limited to opportunities – whether that limitation is due to geography, ethnicity, economics or disability. The $10,000 award was given to 162 of the more than 375 small and mid-sized arts organizations that applied for the funding.
“This grant is specifically for the underserved communities, and it just fits perfectly in getting the arts to a community that might not normally have access to it,” explains Kelly. “The support will be a huge help, and provide even more opportunities to bring together people in an inclusive environment. It’s exciting to see this festival build momentum.”
Entering its third year, the festival saw more than 1,000 people come through last year. Comprised of workshops, speakers, films and live concerts, the program encourages inclusion and seeks to bring together a multitude of communities in the Finger Lakes Region.
This year, the support from the NEA grant will allow organizers to provide even more exciting opportunities, including bringing in the band FLAME, a rock band comprised of developmentally disabled musicians from across N.Y. state. The band has recently gained national attention, and has been featured in People magazine and on “Good Morning America.” FLAME will play during the event’s finale event, a gala reception hosted at the Scandling Campus Center Café and Patio.
In addition to the musical performance, the grant will also fund a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Wretches and Jabberers, which chronicles the journey of Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnett, two autistic men, to change global attitudes toward disabilities. Thresher and Bissonnett themselves will attend the screening, answering audience questions.
The weeklong festival will once again incorporate workshops and events supported by a collaboration between the Colleges and The Collaborative of the Finger Lakes, Inc., a consortium of 11 NYSARC agencies.
“We’re making new workshops, and getting a lot of help from faculty,” says Kelly. “Student involvement is also so important. We really look forward to working with classes; it’s a great piece of the festival. This program has really grown, and it is wonderful to see such a huge shift toward inclusion in the community.”
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. Visit the NEA at www.arts.gov.