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African American faculty, staff and guest artists reach out to children in East Austin

The College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin is underwriting a series of outreach activities designed for African American children.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin is underwriting a series of outreach activities designed for African American children.

The goal is to extend the college’s instructional capacity beyond the boundaries of the campus and to reach communities that would not otherwise benefit from the resources of the state’s flagship research institution.

“Our missions, teaching, research and public service, are closely integrated,” said Robert Freeman, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “The arts can address the needs of our constituents and can contribute to solving the problems we face as a community.”

On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 7, the Department of Art and Art History and the Performing Arts Center of The University of Texas at Austin will hold a joint outreach event for local children at the Creative Research Laboratory (CRL), an exhibition space and research facility the Department of Art and Art History has recently established in East Austin.

“An important aspect of the mission of the CRL is to bring a wide variety of teaching, research and creative activity closer to economically disadvantaged communities that typically do not participate in on-campus activities” said Kenneth Hale, chair of the Department of Art and Art History.

Dr. Christopher Adejumo, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History, will lead children from the East Austin community through a series of exercises to explore the creative process. Adejumo has conducted extensive research in multiculturalism and community-based art education.

“In discovering the creative process, children learn to view the world as a place filled with possibilities” Adejumo said. “They realize there is a creative power within themselves, a power that can be used to shape and express their own vision.”

Renowned pianist Armenta Hummings, founder of the Gateways Music Festival, will collaborate with Adejumo in a program that will involve children ages six to 15 from various elementary schools and high schools of East Austin.

Through music and drawing, the artists will engage the children in an exploration of tone, color, texture, expression, gesture and mood. Children will also have an opportunity to make their own art.

“The arts have the ability to empower children and foster their sense of self,” said Hummings who knows well the importance of black role models. It was not until she was 13 and attended a recital by Marian Anderson that she allowed herself to believe that blacks had a place in the "mostly white environment" of classical music.

The children will be given free tickets to participate with their parents in a concert by renowned African American performers and members of the Gateways Music Festival on Sunday, Sept. 8. The University of Texas at Austin will provide a shuttle bus from the CRL on East MLK to the campus where the concert will take place.

Upon arriving on campus, children and parents will take a tour of Bass Concert Hall, a 3,000-seat auditorium in the Performing Arts Center (PAC). Two senior staff members of the PAC and active members of the African American community—Neil Barclay, associate director, and Judith Rhedin, community relations specialist—will conduct the tour of the facilities and speak to the group.

“Neil and Judith have both had successful careers as arts administrators at The University of Texas at Austin,” said Freeman. “The purpose of this program is to expose children in the community to a variety of role models and to send a clear message that says there’s a place for you in the arts and on our campus.”

The children and their parents will participate in a talk by Hummings, which will lead into the Gateways Music Festival concert at the Bates Recital Hall in the School of Music.

“For many families in the city of Austin, regular attendance to concerts and exhibitions is not a possibility,” said Rhedin. “I am very pleased the College of Fine Arts is supporting these initiatives.”

The weekend events will also be an opportunity to invigorate and encourage links between the university and the African American community of Austin. The George Washington Carver Museum, St. James Episcopal Church, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Wesley United Methodist Church, Austin Area Urban League, Millennium Youth Entertainment Center and Mitchie’s Fine Black Art are hosting related community-based events.

The Creative Research Laboratory is at 2832 East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., one mile east of I-35. There is ample free parking and bus service available on Capitol Metro’s route 18. The activities of the Creative Research Laboratory are free and open to the public.

Children interested in participating in the weekend program may contact Carolyn Porter, Department of Art and Art History, 512-471-3379.

Tickets for the Gateways Music Festival at Bates Recital Hall can be purchased for $35 at all Texas Box Office Outlets, including HEB stores, the Performing Arts Center Box Office (open noon-6 p.m. Monday through Friday), the Frank Erwin Center or online at the Performing Arts Center Web site. Charge tickets by phone at 512-477-6060.

For more information contact: Bruno Longarini, College of Fine Arts, 512-475-7021.