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It Only Takes One: How an Emerging Arts Leader Can Impact a Community

Angela Harris

When I received the call from Americans for the Arts saying that I had been selected to receive the 2011 American Express Emerging Leaders Award, I had so many emotions.

I was thrilled that the panel appreciated the impact that I was making in the community. I was proud that all of the hard work and countless hours that I had invested into starting a nonprofit and growing from the ground up were being recognized; and I was nervous about the future and committed to making sure that I lived up to the honor of the award.

2012 has been a wonderful season of accomplishments for both me and my organization, Dance Canvas. Since June, when I received the award, I have cultivated a new choreographic partnership with Kennesaw State University, which will be developed into a new track and choreographic options for the students of the dance department.

I also began a new partnership with Career Transition for Dancers, and worked in conjunction with the Los Angeles-based organization to provide career training to dancers and choreographers in Atlanta.

Artistically, Dance Canvas partnered with the Rialto Center for the Arts to provide creative connections to involve the community in educational outreach and residencies. These community connections allowed Dance Canvas to work with The Trey McIntyre Project, and with the French Consulate of Atlanta to present a master class by Pierre Rigal’s production, Asphalte.

For the past two years, Dance Canvas has presented a youth after-school dance experience, in partnership with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and their Culture Club initiative.

Through my association with the marketing department of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Ailey Company selected Dance Canvas’ youth program to receive an “Ailey Experience.”

On February 15, new Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle and Ailey dancer Matthew Rushing visited our Culture Club students, ages 5–11 years, and taught Alvin Ailey’s celebrated work, Revelations. The experience was a “once in a lifetime” moment for these students and a huge milestone for Dance Canvas.

With the assistance of the 2011 American Express Emerging Leaders Award, I have a received an incredible validation from two well respected organizations, Americans for the Arts and American Express.

I know that as I look toward the future and to the new endeavors that I want to create, the award will provide credibility in an industry and an environment where emerging leaders are often dismissed. Larger institutions are now taking notice of our accomplishments and have taken an interest in the much needed resources that Dance Canvas provides.

I am looking forward to our 2013 Season…the five-year anniversary of Dance Canvas and I am thankful that the first four years were capped by the honor of being recognized by my peers!

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