Written By: C. Harris-Lockwood

Pictured here left to right: Cassandra Harris Lockwood (Study Buddy program and Utica Phoenix periodical), Jane H. Malin (Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts),Hon. Joan E. Shkane, Pamela G. Matt, Esq. (Young Scholars Program), Zaida Morell mentor. Not pictured: Jawwaad Rasheed, Esq. (Junior Frontiers), Kevin Green (Oneida County Youth Bureau), Sonia Martinez (Mohawk Valley Latino Association),

Young people from low-income families in our community have few, if any, opportunities for exposure to live performances of the arts. At one time there were numerous groups and organizations with programs and activities for youth. Sadly, this is no longer the case.
Gone are summer youth programs of the YWCA, YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Community Action, Corn Hill People United, ACT-SO, the CYO, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and their summer camps, the Boys and Girls Club, the Rhythm Lites, the arts activities of three separate high schools and the many Summer plays and performances. These organizations at one time offered many arts and expression options for activities for Oneida County’s youth. No longer.

The newly formed Art Wide Open Committee intends to reignite the interest, energy, and enthusiasm of theater arts in inner-city young people by introducing them to professional theater. West Side Story, a modernization of the classic Romeo and Juliet set to music in an urban New York City landscape, will be performed live with a full orchestra at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown on August 14, 2018. This event will bring a select group of our young people to enjoy that show, and thereby expand their horizons.

Retired Judge Joan Shkane has banded together a collective of afterschool educational and academic support groups in an effort to introduce these young people to the theater arts. Glimmerglass Festival has set aside a minimum of 25 tickets for the August 14, 2018, performance of West Side Story. We hope to double that attendance!

The Festival will provide a thorough backstage tour including costuming, sets, sound and stage direction. They also offer lunch for each youth, and a special introduction to West Side Story aimed at youth.

The Arts Wide Open Committee is also planning a showing of the film West Side Story preceding the Glimmerglass performance. This event will include a brief discussion of Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein’s adaptation of that story into West Side Story.

The Committee is currently appealing for funding to cover the cost of tickets, transporting the youth and their mentors/chaperones to the theater, and a bag lunch and firmly believe that a seed must be planted well for it to grow!

Judge Shkane asks, “How will we ever know if we have a talented and interested young theater person in this community until we spike his/her imagination? We do know, however, that Oneida County has produced many, many successful artists over the years. We will explore and nurture this possibility while giving each youth an exciting event for the end of this Summer. If successful, this program can continue and grow right here in the Mohawk Valley!”

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