Black Arts MKE Launches New I AM. Masterclass Series with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Principal Dancer James Gilmer for Local Dance Students

Black Arts MKE collaborated with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter Sorority to provide a unique week-long summer camp opportunity in dance.  I AM. Masterclass will expose local youth to James Gilmer, an accomplished Black artist with the internationally acclaimed African American dance company – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The collaboration included hosting 100 local MPS students at the recent Alvin Ailey Performance at the Marcus Center. The dance program is generously sponsored by Gloria F. Gilmer, Philip and Beatrice Blank and the Pauline Redmond Coggs Foundation.

Black Arts MKE’s I AM. Masterclass will take place at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, June 20th through June 24th and will include a culminating performance for youth families and friends.  Each student applicant was required to provide an essay to be eligible for the I AM. Masterclass.  “I love dancing.  The art of dancing is amazing, the way your body is able to move swiftly with the rhythm within every step is so mesmerizing.  I believe that dance tells a story and every time you dance, you’re telling yours,” says 14-year-old Muna Heissan of Carter Christian Academy.

Executive Director Barbara Wanzo says, “We’re continually looking for impactful ways to inspire creativity in our youth.  We have incredible MKE-based talent who work with students every day.  Still, so many youth never have the opportunity to travel beyond Milwaukee, not to mention get direct exposure to this caliber of performing arts talent. Thanks to the Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., we get the opportunity to not only launch an exciting new program, but to expose youth to the infinite possibilities for their future. As is often said in our community, ‘If they see it, they will believe it.’”

Rufus King High School student Alannah M. Meese says, “I had the privilege of seeing James Gilmer perform recently with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  I think it would be a great opportunity to take a class from someone with so much talent and success in the dance industry.  Dance has been in my life for so long – participating in this program will help me diversify my dance and knowledge!”

Black Arts MKE will continue to host I AM. Masterclass with other world-class artists as part of their youth performing arts education.  “We will continue to host our month-long performing arts summer camp in July in accordance with CDC guidelines for COVID-19 prevention for youth summer camps,” says Wanzo.


About Black Arts MKE  

Black Arts MKE’s mission is to increase the availability and quality of African American arts and culture.  Each year, we collaborate with over 100 local artists and arts organizations to bring to our community renowned and original performance arts works by African American authors, playwrights, poets, musicians, and composers.  Our arts community outreach programs serve over 15,000 underserved neighborhood schools, youth and their families including our annual Youth Performing Arts Camp.  Black Arts MKE’s annual signature performance – Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is a holiday musical favorite in Milwaukee featuring an all-black, MKE-based cast.  Black Arts MKE is a recipient of the Association for Performing Arts Professionals, NEA Grant for Arts Projects and The Black Seed national awards.  We are a proud Member Group of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and Resident Group at the Marcus Performing Arts Center.  Black Arts MKE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.

About Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  

Chartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 11, 1949, Epsilon Kappa Omega is the oldest chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in the state of Wisconsin. With over 300 members, it is also Wisconsin’s largest AKA chapter.  Says chapter president Debra Brown -Wallace, “We are diverse, college-trained women representing a wide range of backgrounds, accomplishments, careers, expertise, resources, and talents. As a result of this diversity, we benefit from a multi-generational membership. We are proud to see our chapter members in action locally, regionally and at the international level of our sisterhood.”  For the past 47 years, Epsilon Kappa Omega’s signature debutante cotillion, sponsored by their Pauline Redmond Coggs Foundation, has been the catalyst for scholarships and community contributions in excess of $900,000. The cotillion has been instrumental in the lives of more than 1,000 young debutantes who excel as graceful leaders in various capacities across the country.

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