Triangle Friends of African American Arts connects performers and audiences

This holiday season, Cameron Wynter, a 17-year-old, African-American dancer from Raleigh, will take the stage as the King in the Raleigh School of Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

He’s come a long way for someone who once thought about a career in acting and modeling, not dance. Wynter didn’t take his first dance class until eighth grade – a late start for a dancer – and was mostly self-taught for a long time after that.

“When I saw the things I could do, and the messages I could convey through my movement, that’s when dance really became a big thing for me,” Wynter said. “Now, I’m working on it day in and day out, refining my technique.”

None of that might have been possible were it not for Sherri Holmes and the Triangle Friends of African American Arts (Triangle FAAA).

Holmes founded Triangle FAAA to expand awareness, understanding and support of African-American arts and artists. By hosting educational and social programming throughout the Triangle including art exhibition tours, dinners and group attendance at performances and special events, she’s working to not just to bring people to events, but to ensure future generations see a group of audience members and performers who look like they do.

Holmes met Wynter at a Triangle FAAA event, and had seen videos of him dancing. She reached out to the Raleigh School of Ballet, which offers The Robert Weiss Boys’ Scholarship. Wynter was awarded a scholarship, giving him the access he needed to professional dance training.

“It just felt amazing, especially when you have people who see the potential in you,” he said. “(Holmes) has been that helping hand to help get me up the stairs.”

In addition to helping artists like Wynter, one of Triangle FAAA’s central goals is simply to make people aware of, and get people out to, performances and events featuring African-American artists, Holmes said.

For Holmes, who comes from a family of arts supporters and entrepreneurs, it just made sense, when she recognized a need, to do something about it.

“Museums are dying, audiences are dying,” she said. “It’s important to appeal to a diverse community.”

Sometimes the group will host its own events; other times, it will organize a group outing to events taking place in venues around the Triangle. Holmes also maintains a calendar of events in arts categories including comedy, dance, literature, visual arts and more for those looking to get out on their own.

This year, Triangle FAAA was a collaborator on Art & Soul, a collection of events celebrating African-American arts and artists in the Triangle, along with other local arts organizations and Triangle-area convention and visitors bureaus.

Through the organization’s efforts, Triangle FAAA works to increase awareness and ensure the theaters, galleries and other venues are full.

“I think there’s a disconnect in them knowing that they have this great material, and then knowing how to reach the community to get them there,” Holmes said.

Triangle FAAA offers an annual membership, which supports social and educational programs, the production of outreach materials and the facilitation of arts festivals and other cultural events, Holmes said.

Volunteers from Triangle FAAA represent the organization at festivals and performances, distribute materials to clubs and professional organizations and serve as ambassadors of the organization at special events.

Holmes has run the organization as a volunteer since its inception, but admits it’s gotten too big to handle on her own. Additional funds will bring in much needed support, as well as help fund future programs.

“This is kind of beyond me now,” Holmes said. “We will have done 35 to 40 events this year, and have brought in about 2,000 people to these various events.”

For the next generation of artists, like Wynter, that diversity is so important.

“The very first black, male dancer I ever saw and met with was my high school teacher,” Wynter said. “For me, it felt like I shouldn’t have gone 14 or 15 years before seeing someone like me.” 

Triangle Friends of African American Arts

Durham, NC

www.africanamericanarts.org

Contact: Sherri Holmes, 919-395-7206

Description: The Triangle Friends of African American Arts showcases African and African-American arts including exhibitions, music, dance and dramatic performances. It highlights artists of color, hosts cultural and social events and organizes programs to cultivate a new generation of African-American artists.

Donations needed: Annual membership dues ($20) and generous donations help fund cultural programs, community outreach and educational workshops.

Volunteers needed: Help organize special events and perform community outreach. To join us, go to africanamericanarts.org. Raise awareness of African and African-American arts by posting events on the Triangle Friends of African American Arts website and share Triangle FAAA events on social media to spread the word about highlighted programs around our community.

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