MCC Grant Funds Program to Improve Communication and Understanding
On May 27-29, Pittsfield High School’s rising seniors will increase awareness of self and social diversity by participating in an arts residency program that combines performance, participant art creation, interactive exercises and structured dialogue. The program will be led by the Dialogue Arts Project (DAP) through a partnership with WordXWord (WXW) and is made possible through a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC).
Completely reinventing diversity education, DAP uses spoken word and other art forms to help participants collaborate and communicate more effectively across lines of social identity. DAP founder Adam Falkner said, “We believe that self-awareness and increased knowledge of social diversity is critical to an individual's ability to function as a responsible, tolerant member of his/her community and that the arts are one of the most effective vehicles to draw people into this discussion.”
WordXWord recognized the impact of DAP’s work and first introduced Pittsfield to Adam Falkner during the 2013 WXW Festival. “The United States is one of the most diverse nations in the world yet many of our public and private places remain largely segregated on the basis of race, gender, and other discrete characteristics and provide little opportunity for people to engage in honest, critical, safe face-to-face dialogue,” said Jim Benson, founder of WordXWord. We were delighted to help secure a grant to bring Adam and DAP’s important work to PHS.”
In an increasingly multicultural society, educators agree that learning to navigate cross-cultural communication is imperative in public schools. “Providing these skills to our young leaders is imperative and that’s why we focused this program on the Class of 2015,” according to Matt Bishop, PHS principal.
For this residency, more than 200 members of the current junior class will participate in three days of workshops that include an Active Art Experience, Creative Workshops and Dialogue Sessions. At the end of the three days, the entire PHS student body, state legislators, the community, and the MCC will be invited to a performance featuring student work on diversity and social identity created in the workshops, as well as relevant work by DAP facilitators.
State grants are awarded through a competitive process. By awarding this grant, MCC is recognizing the high level of public value that WXW and DAP provide through their programs and community service. Through this grant, WXW and DAP will reach approximately 300 PHS students.
"WXW has been helping the community understand the importance of diversity," said State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield). "This week, the STARS Residency program granted local students the opportunity to learn from the visionary and creative leaders at DAP, and I am hopeful that the entire PHS community will benefit from the important social lessons learned during this three-day event." Downing serves as the Senate vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development.
MCC has a budget of $12.7 million, including an appropriation of $11 million from the state of Massachusetts and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. Its funds reach every community in Massachusetts. The mission of the MCC is to promote excellence, education, access and diversity in the arts, humanities and sciences in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and to contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. The not-for-profit cultural industry has a $4.2 billion economic impact in the state.
WordXWord is a 501(c)3 non-profit, whose work is made possible with the support of companies and individuals who understand the value of creating interest and excitement for literacy and the creative use of language as well as the experience of community that results from bringing poets, spoken word artists and audiences together. Greylock Federal Credit Union is the lead sponsor for WordXWord Festival 2014.