Educator curriculum to emphasize cultural diversity and inclusion through the arts

The Van Wezel Foundation and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall are pleased to announce a multifaceted arts-based approach to increase culturally relevant education and engagement for students, teachers and families. The initiative, which brings together school districts, community partners and arts educators, will serve as a catalyst of change to ensure cultural diversity is a priority in classrooms, schools, communities and beyond.

Serving as a launch to the initiative, renowned Hip-Hop artist, producer and Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, Olmeca, will participate in a virtual residency throughout the school year to engage educators, students, families and community leaders in trainings, workshops and performances designed to utilize the performing arts to build culturally responsive learning opportunities. Understanding the importance of identity and culture are essential to help create environments, curricula and instructional methods that validate and reflect the diversity, identities and experiences of all students. The opportunity to include families and community members in this approach highlights the value of all perspectives and experiences as a part of students’ education.

“I love bringing groups together to talk about essential topics and social issues such as diversity and inclusion and seeing the world through a different lens,” noted Olmeca, Citizen Fellow Artist with the Kennedy Center. I am eager to share my art and experiences with the Sarasota community to identify ways in which we can celebrate our differences and welcome our similarities.”

In affiliation with John F. Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is working with Sarasota County Schools, Embracing Our Differences and local teaching artists to assure that teachers have opportunities to explore best practices to reach every student. The year-long residency will begin this fall and include virtual educator workshops, community conversations and programming for students and families.

“As we look inward to improve our programs and plan for the future, Olmeca provides the opportunity to have challenging conversations that will lead to lasting change,” commented Kelli Maldonado, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. “The collaboration between the Van Wezel organizations, donors, school districts, community partners and Olmeca is a perfect example of how the arts can fully reflect the community and the power of collective impact.”

Olmeca’s virtual visits, community conversations and performance are offered at no cost thanks in part to the generosity of  Jenne Britell, who has sponsored his residency. “As our world and community are changing, the arts carry a universal power to bring people together.” commented Britell. “This is an important step forward and I hope this residency is the first of many, encouraging even more donors to sponsor a series of artists to bring about positive change throughout our community.”

Support for the Van Wezel IDEA Artist-In-Residence program is provided by Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Jenne Britell and generous donors to the Van Wezel Foundation.

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