The month of June held an incredible experience for a group of five performing artists who volunteered for Bay Area Tour (BAT), an arts outreach program held in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was BAT’s third summer bringing free interactive performances and arts workshops to underprivileged children and adult health care facilities across the Bay Area, and the program was partially funded by the Juilliard Summer Grant Program for the second year in a row. This year’s BAT team included Kelly Hannegan (’09, dance), assistant director; Troy Macklin (B.F.A. ’08, dance), founder and director; Kendra Samson (B.F.A. ’09, dance); third-year violist Adiza Sanchez-Rahim; and trombonist Brent White, an alum of the University of the Arts. There were several new developments in this summer’s program, one of which was the addition of free workshops within the public school system. During our three-week, eight-city tour, our team gave 17 free public performances, seven of which were interactive arts workshops. Our mission was simple: We will motivate people to explore their creative selves by sharing positive and various forms of expression.
We began at Oakland Technical High School, where we held an interactive master class for students enrolled in dance, drama, and music electives. Initially we wondered how the students would respond since our workshop was held on the last day of school before summer vacation, but we quickly realized our anxieties were superfluous. The students were completely engaged throughout the four hours they spent with the BAT team and remained captivated by the exercises and activities we presented. It was incredibly rewarding to see the students’ progression within activities such as Freeze/Justified, where they were asked to choose characters and settings to portray. By the end of our program, it was apparent that the students had been inspired. Their eyes had been opened to the possibility of self-fulfillment and success from being a part of something they love. During the final sharing and Q and A session, the students’ newfound levels of confidence and hopes for the future were apparent. They were interested in how each of us became artists and how we are pursuing our art forms. We assured them that hard work and motivation would lead them to achieving their goals.
Our next stop was Edgewood Center for Children and Families, a facility that serves more than 5,000 children and families suffering from abuse, neglect, mental illness, and crisis. About 60 children attended our interactive performance, during which they came up with animals that we mimicked with movement and sound in our animal improvisation activity. We then transitioned to the Body Part Improvisation Game, and the kids became visibly excited when they called out body parts that the dancers used to initiate their movements and the musicians used to inspire their playing. The incredible intelligence of the participants was shown as they yelled out complicated anatomical parts such as the calcaneus and clavicle.
We were also given the opportunity to bring free workshops to the Oakland Unified School District’s Summer Arts Institute for Academic Teachers, a weeklong event. We worked with teachers to explore ways in which they can incorporate the arts into their curriculums and classrooms.
The theme of inspiration continued as the tour visited assisted living facilities for the elderly in the Bay Area. One of the many successful performances was held at Windsor Garden of Hayward. Although the performance was only vocally interactive, that did not dampen the level of participation from the residents, who took great delight in shouting out the names and performers of classic jingles and theme songs, such as the tune from The Odd Couple, in the musicians’ Name That Tune activity. The degree of appreciation from the residents was obvious as they thanked the team, held conversations with BAT after the performance, and even cried as we ended the final collaborative piece. BAT’s efforts and mission of spreading inspiration through self-expression was achieved as the residents begged us to come back that coming Monday.
Regardless of age, race, economic, or physical state of the populations that BAT reached, the tour’s efforts were well received and essential in order to inspire a sense of hope, creativity, and individuality through art. Providing even an hour of free arts education to these underprivileged populations of the San Francisco Bay Area triggered a catalyst for growth and expression through art.