Think about the words ‘culture’ and ‘cultivate’. Both come from the Latin root word ‘cultus’ which means ‘care.’ Here in Wilmington, we pride ourselves in our cultural offerings and our vibrant arts scene. But the arts don’t just happen in Wilmington; they are cultivated here—‘cared’ for, starting at a young age. The Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education (DiAE) is a Wilmington-based, non-profit organization that is doing its part to nurture the arts in Delaware. Specifically, this organization is on a mission to enhance education by integrating multicultural arts experiences into the daily curriculum of Delaware schools. In an age of of diminishing school arts’ budgets and increased multi-sensory communication (You are reading this on a visually dynamic webpage, aren’t you?), the work DiAE does integrating art into the educational landscape becomes crucial.
To support their work in the state, DiAE is hosting SPOTLIGHT, its signature fundraising event at the Queen on Wednesday, May 8. But like most endeavors for this group, the aim of the event goes beyond simple check-writing. SPOTLIGHT is a multi-faceted celebration of everything that DiAE brings to Delaware’s schools. Take the night’s honorees, Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi Chukwuocha--Delaware’s 17th Poet Laureate. The identical twin brothers, both social workers and fathers, have not only advocated to bring poetry to every school in Delaware, giving children self-expression, but also to bring this transformational means of communication to the jail cells and military bases that dot our state. Their presence is just one example of the quality of experience the event has in store.
SPOTLIGHT kicks off the evening at 5:30 PM. With a $50 VIP pre-party ticket ($35 for educators) you can nosh on delectable fare from Food For Thought catering. (Have you had their pear salad? It’s outstanding. Or perhaps the tater tot station is more your speed. No judgment here. Culture comes in all forms.) But more than just a turn around the buffet table and a trip to the cash bar, the VIP ticket affords patrons a deeper connection—a chance to engage with the honorees and performers of the evening including an educational experience with teaching artist Jason Keller of J.K. Percussion & Arts. Keller’s company has a parallel vision to DiAE’s in that it is devoted to enhancing performing arts programs throughout the state of Delaware.
The evening’s main show, open to the public, begins at 7 PM with high-spirited performances by percussionist and composer Tony Vacca, West African dancer Abdou Sarr, and Massamba Diop--a Senegalese drummer who has worked with legends like Peter Gabriel and James Brown and whose work is featured throughout the score for the movie The Black Panther. Earlier in the day, these artists will be performing for and working with students at Warner Elementary and Stubbs Elementary schools. In the weeks prior to artists’ visits, Jason Keller will lead students in a series of workshops in which they will experience various West African rhythms and learn to play them in unison. Students will take the rhythms they have learned and explore polyrhythms in small groups—eventually performing before their peers. The most magical part of the SPOTLIGHT’s public evening event promises to be when artists-in-training from Warner Elementary School share the stage with their mentors. Having seen student West African drum and dance groups perform, my only advice is: be prepared for goosebumps. It is an exhilarating showcase—and a powerful argument for the cross-pollinization of arts experiences and traditional education within our schools.
Spotlight takes place Wednesday, May 8th, 2019, at the Queen; 500 N. Market Street; Wilmington. VIP tickets $50 ($35 for educators) include catered fare, cash bar, and meet-and-greet starting at 5:30 PM. You can purchase VIP tickets online. Tickets for the 7 PM main performance only are $15. They can be purchased online or at the door. For more information on Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education, see their website.