• ,

Creating good citizens through art

To listen to Sharon Litwin's interview with Dana Reed on WWNO public radio, click here.

Hope Stone camp for kids

Hope Stone summer camp teaches dance, music and filmmaking.

New Orleans has some very visible social problems, but they don't seem to have deterred a number of young, energetic and activist newcomers from embracing the cultural wealth, cuisine, and “care-forgot” lifestyle of this old city. Meridien, Mississippi-born Dana Reed is one of them. Living in New Orleans was something she always wanted to do, even if it took her almost a decade to get here.

After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in dance and dance education, she decided to embrace the bright lights of Broadway, and in 2003 went to live in the Big Apple. Several years of competing against hundreds of other wannabes at auditions was a shock to her expectations. Even though she landed a number of impressive professional dance gigs, the grind of that lifestyle grew old.

Hope Stone

Hope Stone kids

So, after a few years, she decided to split her world into two very different spheres: daytime employed by a hedge fund; evenings and weekends participating in public dance performances.

And then, in 2010, she got the call: an offer to come to New Orleans and become director of an arts outreach program for at-risk kids. Hope Stone New Orleans is an extension of the national Houston-based Hope Stone Inc., a non-profit organization begun by Jane Weiner, Dana’s mentor and teacher from her summer dance camp days at the nationally-famous Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine.

“It was my golden ticket to do what I’ve always wanted to do,” Dana recalls. “I knew one day I would start a community center. I knew it would be in New Orleans because I love New Orleans. I think this city is full of culture, full of vibe. So I packed my bags and moved here to start Hope Stone New Orleans.”

Working out of rented space in a renovated old firehouse at Toledano and Carondelet Streets, Dana and a staff of dancers, musicians and filmmakers will offer a three-week summer camp experience beginning July 1 for a group of under-served children and youth aged 6 to 17. In addition to their arts experiences, each camper will also be provided two meals a day, courtesy of Second Harvest Food Bank.

This summer a new scholarship fund has been created that will allow up to 20 at-risk New Orleans teens to attend Hope Stone New Orleans. The Luba Glade Memorial Scholarship Fund, created by her son and daughter-in-law Dr. Louis and Janie Glade, will allow the teens to attend the arts camp at no cost to them or to their families.

Luba Glade (1922-2009), a powerful force in this city’s arts community, was a lifelong New Orleanian who graduated from Newcomb College. She ran the Glade Gallery in the 1960s, wrote art criticism for The States-Item in the 1970s and was a catalyst in the establishment of the Contemporary Arts Center and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, perhaps her two most favorite causes.

So that chosen teenagers can also hold down summer jobs or, if that is not possible, be interns to assist with younger campers, their program only runs half a day and includes exposure to music and filmmaking in addition to dance.

“The teenagers will take choreography with me,” Dana explains. “I teach the basic skills and techniques of dance. But they are going to create their own dance, their own product.

“We’re giving them a really safe environment. It’s not that our doors are locked and they’re inside. When I say safe, I man it’s safe for them to speak up, safe for them to speak from the heart. Because in the end what we really want to accomplish is good citizens. We need them to be the thinkers of tomorrow.”

For more information about summer camp registration or information about the Luba Glade Scholarship Fund, go to [email protected]. View founder Jane Weiner’s stirring and entertaining philosophical statement about the value of art in the video below.

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]