by Tiffany Neijna, United Arts Council board member
The rhythm of the drums created a backdrop for the hum of the guitar as the pianist danced across the keyboard. In harmony, emcee Pierce Freelon belted out melodies capturing the students’ attention, inviting them to clap along. The auditorium at Ligon Middle School overflowed with energy.
Engaged and inspired, these middle school students were experiencing a live performance by The Beast, a local American, alternative hip hop band. The students were told they would be missing class for an assembly; they had no idea they would get to experience a live concert, performed by a band that has collaborated and released an album with 6-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Because of the United Art’s Artists in Schools program, this special day became a reality.
The performance that day left impressions on these children in so many ways. This local band from Durham demonstrated a passion for music that has carved a path for them to share something they love with others. The band members connected with the children through music and shared stories, teaching them about history and folklore.
United Art’s Artist in Schools program brought artists into 142 Wake County schools in 2015-16. These artists provided performances, master classes and residency programs. In total, United Arts spent $500,000 to support 400 arts programs in our schools in 2015-2016. The students and the teachers can’t say enough about the positive experiences it provides to the students as well as how grateful they are to be able to collaborate with these artists and present curriculum in a creative way.
You may ask, “How is this possible?” United Arts of Wake County has been supporting artists and our schools for more than 30 years. In addition to the grants that are provided to support arts programming in the county, the Artist in Schools program is a significant contribution to our community. The students benefit, the educators benefit and the community benefits.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, United Art’s annual fundraiser makes these experiences possible. Guess Who is not your typical fundraiser; it’s fun and original and of course, there are wonderful artists and performances involved.
For the first two nights, intimate dinners are hosted around town. If you’re lucky enough to get a ticket before these sell out, you will get to dine with authors, ballerinas, musicians and poets in some of the finest homes in the area. These dinners are a tradition of Guess Who, and it’s always fun to arrive and be surprised to learn who you will share dinner conversations with. The artists engage with the attendees sharing dinner and an evening that often brings even more surprises. These dinners set the stage for the grand event—the celebration on Saturday night. This event is sure to wow and impress everyone in attendance with beautiful, delicious food, and performances from some of North Carolina’s most talented artists.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner will be making its presence in Raleigh the first weekend of November with dinners in private homes on Thursday and Friday, November 3 and 4, and the celebration on Saturday, November 5. Tickets to all events are available online at www.unitedarts.org.