Aspiring young artists will visit West Virginia University to explore African-American contributions to the arts, and the Morgantown community has an open invitation for the celebration.

In its 31st year, the African-American Arts & Heritage Academy comes to campus July 13-18. Youth ages 13-18 throughout the region attend the week-long academy. Classes focus on history/culture, literature/creative writing, dance, vocal and instrumental music, theater arts and visual arts.

And while academy students focus on one discipline to workshop, study and showcase, the group comes together for master classes and heritage enrichment with the intention of exposure to all the contributions African-Americans have made in the fine arts and humanities.

Jacqueline Dooley, academy Administrative Director, said the busy week provides plenty of opportunities for the public to learn about African-American heritage, too. “It’s for others to recognize that our contributions have been significant in this country,” she said.

The week will focus on two African-American artists and icons: Maya Angelou and Michael Jackson. Students will create performances and other artistic interpretations based on and inspired by their work. And as many so events are open to the public, community members have the chance to see the progression from process to product.

On Monday, July 13, a “Coffee House,” reading will give students resource material to pull from for inspiration. It will be improv, as students create on-the-spot while listening to Angelou’s and Jackson’s writings and lyrics.

Later in the week, students will see history re-enactment performances from Ilene Evans, learn about music therapy from Fredrica Dooley-Brown, and receive instruction in vocal performance from Bridgette Moon. The community can attend these events, as well.

Students will also have a few encounters with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject matter, as the academy hopes to increase its offerings.

“Everyone’s not going to be a major artist. That’s why we offer a component in STEM,” Dooley said. “Even in music, art, theater and dance, there’s science. We can connect both worlds.”

The academy wraps up at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre, with a showcase for participants to display what they’ve produced from a week’s worth of work.

As a whole, Dooley said the performances and open-house approach to the academy gives the greater community a chance to see African-American youth display their creativity and celebrate their heritage, contrary to other stereotypes that often dominate representations of black youth.

“They’re doing something positive,” she said. “The arts are great.”

The academy operates as a non-profit 501©3 organization, but has received support this year from WVU’s Creative Arts Center, WVU Housing and Residential Education, and WVU’s offices of Student Life, Multicultural Programs, and Leadership and Student Engagement.

For more information, visit the academy’s website: or visit its Facebook page: “African American Arts & Heritage Academy.”

Schedule of events open to the public:

Monday, July 13
3:15-4:30 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — Dance Methods Master Class with Crystina Ressitar

6:15-7:30 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — African Drum & Dance Master Class with Mitch Greco

7:45-8:45 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — “Coffee House”: Readings of Michael Jackson lyrics and Maya Angelou poetry with improv creations by academy students

9-10:30 p.m., Lincoln Hall Theatre — Screening of “This is It”

Tuesday, July 14
4-4:50 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — Instrumental master class with Donnie Lee

6-7:30 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — “Modes of Theater” master class with Dr. Maya Brown

Wednesday, July 15
10:45-11:45 a.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — “Voices from the Earth”: A history re-enactment with Ilene Evans

8-8:50 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — Vocal Master Class with Bridgette Moon

9-11 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — AAAHA Annual Talent Show with special guest Diversity Steppers

Thursday, July 16
7:30-8:30 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — Music Therapy Master Class with Fredrica Dooley-Brown and Kirsten Ferdinand

Saturday, July 18
1-3:30 p.m., Gladys G. Davis Theatre (CAC) — Annual AAAHA Student Showcase



CONTACT: Jacqueline Dooley, Program Coordinator, Office of Student Activities
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