Arts In Action offers performing arts classes
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- When Arts In Action began in 1998 as a class of 10 teenagers in a local church basement in Hurricane, founding director Joni Cantrell said she couldn't foresee how much the organization would grow.
"Looking back, I wouldn't have anticipated such growth in such a short period of time," Cantrell said. "However, when you look at the impact the program is having, you would predict that type of growth. We've only been able to serve the community and grow because of support in the community."
Arts In Action, a nonprofit organization based in Hurricane, offers dance, piano, voice, drums, theater, visual arts and martial arts classes to children between the ages of 4 and 18. The program, which has two Hurricane campuses, a St. Albans site and a campus for at-risk and underserved kids on Charleston's West Side, serves more than 350 students every year.
"Lifelong skills such as discipline, dependability, dedication, goal setting, work ethic and team work are just a few of the things students learn by participating in our programs," Cantrell said.
According to Cantrell, the organization is not faith-based, but operates with a Christian influence. Families enrolled in the program come from 35 different denominations, including Hinduism and Judaism, as well as secular households.
Cantrell said it isn't mandatory that students participate in the prayer, devotion time and memorizing scriptures offered before and after each class at Arts In Action, but that it has proven to be popular with the children and their families.
"The benefits of arts education is significant and can stand alone, but by adding the Christian influence -- teaching biblical standards -- we can make an impact that will ripple into eternity," she said.
There are roughly 120 students who participate in the Urban Stage program offered in Charleston, which is free to students and funded entirely through grants, Cantrell said. Students in the other studios are asked to pay monthly tuition on a need-based scale; the normal monthly rate is $60, and siblings of children already enrolled in the program receive an additional discount.
Arts In Action plans to bring its influence to the holiday season for another year. This year's Art In Action winter production, "Christmas Spectacular," will celebrate the season with music, dance and theater and showcase the program's Master Ambition Performance Company and guest artists, Cantrell said. The outfit will give four performances of the show throughout the region.
"We were thrilled with the many invitations that we received to perform this season," said Cookie Samworth, Arts In Action's artistic director and choreographer. "This show will match its name -- 'spectacular.'"
Master Ambition is an audition-only company, and is a featured performing group on Daystar Television Network. They have performed with Landau Eugene Murphy at the Clay Center, for the "Friends of Culture and History" Fashion Show fundraiser, Appalachian Children's Chorus Holiday Concert, West Virginia Dance Festival and are always featured performers at the annual Arts Celebration held at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia.
Members of the company will be dancing in New York City as part of "Project Dance" this spring.
According to a 2008 study by the College Board, students who take four years of arts and music classes while in high school score 85 points better on their SATs than students who took only a half year or less and scored an average of 523 on the writing portion of the test -- 52 points higher than students with only a half year or less of art and music classes.
"Arts In Action's classes are structured and taught by highly skilled, qualified, passionate, and dedicated artist-educators," Cantrell said. "We know that arts education makes a positive impact in the lives of students, and that the benefits follow a child into adulthood."
The first "Christmas Spectacular" performance will take place at the Teays Valley Church of God at 6 p.m. Dec.7. The program will perform at the Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene Dec. 8 at 6 p.m., and will hold two performances at the Huntington Mall on Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. and noon.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5189.