May 13, 2008


Oddfellows Playhouse has received one of five statewide pilot grants from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism to offer creative, nonschool arts experiences to underserved youth. With this $18,000 grant, Oddfellows, in partnership with the Middletown Youth Services Bureau, will launch an innovative, 9-month Arts Explorers program that will introduce 24 middle-school students to the visual, literary and performing arts and help them develop a public presentation or performance. The new program will also facilitate their transition from middle school to high school.

Arts Explorers is designed to help middle school students, particularly low-income and minority youth, experience the arts under the mentorship of a professional artist. Middletown Youth Services will spearhead the effort to recruit Middletown students, ages 12-14, in September 2008. From October to December, the young people will try various art forms with Oddfellows artists William A. Foster III, Renee Soares, and Jaime Guite. Then, in January, students will focus intensively on one of the arts to prepare for a public presentation in May. Visual arts will include painting, sculpture, and a variety of mixed media; literary could be a poetry slam, playwriting, a journal or magazine; performing projects will range from dance to music to a play.

Arts Explorers will take place at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street, in Middletown, but students will also take field trips to museum exhibitions, galleries, and theater performances. Middletown Youth Services “Dragons in Action” high school students will serve as teaching assistants for the program. “Through the combined leadership of Oddfellows and the Youth Services Bureau, we are very pleased to be able to bring this innovative arts initiative to the Middletown community,” said Dominick Grant, the Playhouse’s Managing Director.

Oddfellows received this state grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism through a competitive process. The Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism brings together tourism, film, history, and the arts to preserve and promote Connecticut’s cultural and tourism assets in order to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of the state. Funds for the five pilot grants to benefit underserved youth were made available by Governor M. Jodi Rell and the state legislature.

For more information about the Arts Explorers program, please call Oddfellows Playhouse at (860) 347-6143.