CITY OF DETROIT, MI
Mayor Dennis Archer

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit

Quality of Instruction & Participant Performance

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit has been recognized nationally and internationally as a model youth arts program, providing outstanding, innovative educational and artistic quality programs. Winner, 1999 "Coming Up Taller" award. The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts has recognized Mosaic as a national model for excellence in after-school arts training programs. The National Council of Foundations, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Council on Education showcased Mosaic's programs at 1998/1999 national conferences in Washington DC and Miami, Florida.

Selected as the sole U.S. Representative to the "World Youth Theatre 2000" Festival in London, England, July, 2000; and 1996 World Festival of Children's Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark. Winner of the 1998 Governor's Award for Arts and Culture for the organization's "outstanding contributions regionally and statewide."

Program Design & Creative Content

Mosaic's Youth Ensemble Training Program:

The Youth Ensemble is an intensive, free-of-charge, 9 month theatrical training program drawing talented 12-20 year-olds (with 105 members this season) from Detroit and surrounding communities to train after school and weekends with gifted theatre artists to create and produce professional-quality plays. All ensemble members work with professional actors, writers, vocalists, composers, technicians and designers. No fee is charged for training, touring opportunities, or membership in the Youth Ensemble.

Under the umbrella of the youth ensemble many other activities take place:

  • School Tour and Public Performances
  • Professional Training Programs
  • Professional Theatre Tour
  • Academic Tutoring and Counseling Services
  • Summer University Residency Program
  • Creativity of the Program's Approach

Through theatre and music. Mosaic Youth Theatre teaches kids the skills they will need to take with them as future employees, including the ability to work as part of a team, the self-discipline necessary to perform well in a work environment, and a sense of pride in the work one produces. Mosaic also provides free training focusing on specific job skills such as: carpentry and electronics, measurement, public speaking, reading and writing; and employability skills, such as leadership, organization and time management, problem solving, group responsibility, that are of value in any career choice.

Mosaic's teen participants in the last two years have been more than 90% minority and 50% economically disadvantaged both populations underserved by arts programming and funding. Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit offers an intensive, professional-level training program which provides a creative, constructive alternative to teenagers who are at risk of turning to more destructive behaviors. Involvement in Mosaic improves kids self-perception, empathy, and ability to resolve conflicts without turning to violence. (Adolescent journal self- evaluations and observation, 1992-present) Integration of Support Services, Prevention Strategies, etc.

This year. Mosaic has hired a part time Academic Advisor who will coordinate academic support services including tutoring, assisting with college applications, scholarship and financial aid research. In addition. Mosaic has engaged a social work intern from Eastern Michigan University and have entered into a collaborative relationship with Starfish Family Services to provide referrals and counseling for youth ensemble members when needed.

Evidence of Program Impact

Mosaic Youth Theatre exemplifies the ability of arts programing to enhance and transform the lives of the young people it touches. One such example of this is Mosaic’s outstanding record on academic achievement. The dropout rate in the city's high schools is staggeringly high. According to Mayor Dennis Archer in his December 15, 1998 public broadcast directed to Detroit School Board Members, "...between 25 and 30% of Detroit children who enter the 9th grade together do not graduate. Some have suggested that this number may actually be higher." By contrast, 95% of Mosaic Youth Theatre Ensemble members graduate from high school, and nearly 90% attend college or other advanced training programs.

Description of the Role of the Mayor/City Government

Mosaic has received funding for the past four years from the City of Detroit Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to provide public service programs to Detroit-area youth. Mosaic is a past grant recipient and a client for technical assistance with the City of Detroit Cultural Affairs Department. Mosaic also receives in-kind rehearsal, shop, and office space at the Detroit Historical Museums. The establishment of Mosaic within the city builds the Detroit area's regional and national reputation as an arts center and provides a positive image of the youth of Detroit.

Community Wide Support and/or Involvement

Volunteers: Mosaic depends on the support of community volunteers. Parents, educators, and area businesses volunteers provide transportation, food, performances sites and other support for Mosaic productions. Parents and Youth Ensemble members also participate in fund raising activities, such as candy sales, special events, etc.

Community partners: Mosaic is involved in a number of community partnerships, including:

  • A.C.E. (Arts Centered Education Program) dedicated to improving the Detroit Public Schools by making quality arts education a central part of the students' daily learning experience.
  • The Detroit Zoo creating theatrical programming for young audiences, bringing science concepts to vivid life.
  • The Detroit Recreation Department: providing free theatre workshops/classes and performances through the Detroit Recreation Department.
  • Empowerment Zone: contracted with the Empowerment Zone's "Arts Brigade Project" designed to use the arts to teach violence prevention to young people, ages 8 - 16. A.C.C.E.S.S./Latino Family Services a Multicultural Youth Theatre
  • Collaborative which provides free theatrical training and performance opportunities to Mosaic's nearest neighbors young people from the Latino Community in southwest Detroit, and young people from the Arab-American community in Dearborn.

Matrix Theatre Company

Since its founding in 1991, Matrix Theatre Company has become known for several distinct qualities: strong collaborative relationships with educational and social service agencies, highly artistic and innovative bilingual theatrical productions, and powerful, transformative interactions with at-risk youth.

Matrix Theatre Company is a professional community-based theatre serving Southwest Detroit. In comparison to the rest of the city, Southwest Detroit is poorer, less well educated and much more culturally diverse. Drop out rates at area high schools remain stubbornly high-as many as 50% of 9th graders fail to graduate. Unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, and violence are common. The mean family income is $12,000. Home to Latinos, African Americans, European Americans in nearly equal numbers, Southwest Detroit is the most densely populated region of the city. The neighborhood is slowly recovering from the economic devastation of the 1980's. The despair and crisis which so dominated young lives in the late 1980's and early 1990's have somewhat abated. While gangs and open drug sales continue, they no longer dominate the social and psychic space of our neighborhood. Even so, the scars and fears of those years remain.

Matrix programs reflect the culture and concerns of our neighborhood. Many of our programs are bilingual: most of our plays use both English and Spanish. This approach reflects our mission:

Matrix Theatre Company fosters a community of creativity and social justice through the development of original theatre. We believe in the transformative power of art and the necessity for diverse peoples to join the theatrical work as creators, producers, and audience.

In all Matrix Theatre Company programs, children and youth are the creators of new work. Adult professional artists are mentors, co-creators, and leaders who facilitate the creative process. Last year, Southwest Story grew from a year long workshop in which teens and adults studied and re-wrote Romeo and Juliet scene by scene. This year, children, teens and adults will work together to create:

  • Ambassador. Love and betrayal at the foot of a certain bridge
  • Once Was Paradise: Giant puppets tell the natural history of Detroit
  • The Cousin: A radio murder mystery set in Detroit's Paradise Valley written and performed by blind elders
  • Playbuilders: Creativity training for 8-12 year olds
  • Cesar Chávez: Our latest giant puppet hero
  • Such an approach is unique within the city of Detroit. In plays such as Southwest Story, La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol, Jesus in the Hood, Fear and Faith, House on Mango Street, Beyond Violence, and Street Stones, young lives and our community have been transformed.

Zebadiah Muñoz, just out of Juvenile Detention, was a young leader of one of Southwest Detroit's most ruthless gangs, the Cash Flow Posse. After seeing Beyond Violence, he took the challenge to help write another play. That play became Jesus in the Hood, which answered the question, "What if Jesus had been born and raised in Southwest Detroit?" Zebadiah wrote and played the role of Jesus, the leader of a gang called the Apostle Posse. It was a life changing moment. Zeb learned that his leadership and charisma could have positive purpose. He is now in college. Jose Viramontez was bouncing between relatives as his mother's crack addiction became worse and worse. Brilliant, guarded, and silent, José began working with Matrix at the age of eleven. When he graduated from high school, he was taking lead roles, guiding writing and design groups, and serving on Matrix' Board of Directors. He is currently a Merit Scholar at the University of Michigan, completing his degree in advertising.

Angélica Hernández avoided the trap that caught her mother and sisters, all of whom had their first child before the age of sixteen. A driven and talented actress, she joined Matrix when she was ten. She worked on every play and project until she graduated, choosing to spend as much time at the theatre instead of the chaos of her substance abuse and gambling driven home. She is now in officer's training in the Army. Chestley Forbes was struggling to get a GED after quitting school at the age of fourteen. He discovered Southwest Story, and a passion for theatre, and is now a theatre major at Henry Ford Community College. María Serratos, whose first language is Spanish, is training in theatre education at Wayne State. Michael Brown-Harrison was awkward and ungainly, in his third high school in as many years. His poise, his confidence, grace, and agility grow daily as he succeeds in the Romeo role of Southwest Story.

Tanika Cunningham's mother, unable to deal with her daughter's emotional outbursts, kicked her out of the house. Wes Nethercott recognized that Tanika's turmoil was more than teenage angst, and insisted she go the doctor. Tanika had thyroid cancer: her hormones were in complete disarray and her life was in danger. These are dramatic stories. Over the years, Matrix has worked with hundreds of young people in Southwest Detroit. Their stories may be more subtle, but they are just as profound. Participation in Matrix Theatre Company gives inner city children and youth the opportunity to be changed, shaped, and enlivened by the act of creation.

So often, Matrix Theatre Company has been the first place these young people have known success, completion, and positive feedback. So often, Matrix Theatre Company has taken young people see their first play, go to their first restaurant, or experience their first trip downtown. They grow as they learn that their stories can become art. They learn that audiences value them and the work they do. They are lauded as they become leaders for positive change in our neighborhood. Most young people want this kind of affirmation; youth living in troubled neighborhoods tend to be starved for it. By creating original theatre about their lives, the inter-generational, multiracial, and multilingual participants bond with each other. This bond is the foundation of a creative community borne of the people who created it and who own it. It is Matrix Theatre Company's gift to the future.

InsideOut

A 501(c)3 literary arts organization, InsideOut's mission is to foster and celebrate the creative expression of Detroit youth. Since its inception in 1995, InsideOut has built a strong record of bringing innovative literary arts activities to Detroit students. Our program components include Writers' Residencies which provide weekly classroom visits by professional writers in Detroit middle and high schools culminating in a professionally printed literary magazine for each school; Citywide Poets, an after-school performance workshop; and Detroit Visions a summer workshop combining poetry and photography. InsideOut also sponsors writing in-service workshops for participating teachers. Feels Like Tazz!, an annual engagement calendar showcasing students' writing and art, and a year-end Spring Gala Performance and Publication Party.

InsideOut's goal is to nurture the growth of imagination and awaken students to the adventure and power of language. We believe that encouraging young people to find spirituality and purpose in creating is a supremely valuable cultural goal. To this end, InsideOut employs some of our area's best-loved poets and fiction writers who are selected on the basis of both their publication record and prior experience with youth. They come recommended by organizations such as Broadside Press, the Writer's Voice, Interlochen Arts Academy, and the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs Creative Writers in the Schools Program.

Our approach includes celebrating and publicizing creativity as well as fostering its growth. In workshops, students learn to think and write in new ways. They become creative participants in producing literary publications, taking a direct role in editing, proofing and organizing their writing; and they become performers, collaborating with student jazz musicians and artists to present their work in public. By spring of 2000, we estimate that nearly 12,000 students will have had contact with writers since we began in 1995, with over 3,300 seeing their work in print in our literary magazines. Detroit Visions and Citywide Poets have also created numerous performance opportunities for students, including Daimler Chrysler's "Spirit in the InsideOut, Words" celebration.

Borders Books & Music, Ann Arbor's State Street Poetry Project, the Detroit Festival of the Arts, the African World Festival and more. The effects of recognition on a student writer's sense of pride and self-respect cannot be overestimated. Many have won awards from the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, Broadside Press and other writing competitions. Others have been included in an upcoming national anthology from Candlewick Press. Individual successes show that InsideOut is serving a crucial need and, on occasion, even saving lives.

Through InsideOut, students express themselves and hone their skills, often giving voice to some of their most private concerns. This addresses an essential, developmental need for community and acceptance. Because InsideOut provides an opportunity to write and share with peers, students come to regard one another more positively. As Crystal Clowney of Citywide Poets says, "You hear other people's work, and it makes you think. People always enhance other people." InsideOut writers can fulfill the role of trusted adult, giving advice if necessary or referring students to appropriate avenues of help. Because we believe that writing empowers students to understand the world around them as well as themselves, we encourage them to use writing to examine current social issues such as urban decay and homelessness. The poems from the Coalition on Temporary Shelter's fund-raising program reveal the students' sensitivity and insight on such matters.

Finally, we are grateful to Houston's Writers in the Schools--our mentors, to ArtServe, and to InsideOut the City of Detroit's Cultural Affairs Department for consultation regarding organizational matters. InsideOut is funded by foundations, government agendas, individuals, and the Detroit Public Schools.


 
 


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