Community Youth Perform in ArtsReach Showcase

Hip hop dancers and Suzuki Method-trained violinists will share the stage Sunday at the Kentucky Center’s ArtsReach showcase. The annual show features community youth arts groups performing in the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theatre, including special guests River City Drum Corps, whose director, Ed White, has a long-standing relationship with ArtsReach.

Violin instructor Keith Cook teaches Suzuki Method through the Presbyterian Early Childhood Center, Meyzeek Community School and WESTEC, his own studio. His students are among several local groups performing Sunday.

The 22-year-old outreach education program develops free arts education for youth who otherwise don’t have access to lessons. Violin is popular; there’s also demand for dance classes. 

“We select different art forms we feel young people will identify with and enjoy studying,” says director Julia Youngblood. “But we also know that many students, in the public school system especially, are not able to pay for private lessons, so we want to make lessons available on a weekly basis in community center settings.”

Through ArtsReach, the Kentucky Center has spread its model throughout the state, developing more than 100 arts education initiatives in eight Kentucky communities with funding assistance from the Kentucky Arts Council.

“We choose different performing arts centers around the state and we ask them to identify community center settings they would like to work with, and we pair them up and provide some professional development and offer them some grant opportunities to program the arts in their community,” says Youngblood.

Several dance ensembles will perform on Sunday, including the Oscar Cross Step Crew, a dance ensemble based at the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club in Paducah. Local dance groups include dance ensembles Soljettes Dance Team and the ArtsReach dance studio, based in the Chestnut Street YMCA.

A similar dance studio at Shawnee Arts and Culture Center has grown into a competitive ensemble, Youngblood says, featuring a hybrid style of hip hop and contemporary dance instruction. The 15-member ensemble will perform four numbers at the showcase.

“That was one of our first groups we had auditions for rather than whoever was interested,” says Youngblood. “We made it a competitive process.”

Hosted by actor and arts educator Keith McGill, Sunday’s showcase is free and begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are not required. 

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