Victor Valley Arts and Education Center was awarded a $10,000 arts grant in November, 2014 via our affiliation with the High Desert Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties (TCF) received funding from The James Irvine Foundation for projects targeted to an arts-nonprofit. The grant guidelines were for an arts project to embrace and advance the diverse way that we experience the arts by reaching low-income and/or ethnically diverse populations that have been traditionally underserved by nonprofit arts organizations. In addition, the arts engagement project needed to actively engage the targeted communities by having them participate in the project and also put on performances in nontraditional arts venues.
The successful grant that VVAEC wrote was to produce the award-winning two-person play “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney and to present the play at affordable housing complexes and senior centers. The project was called “Love Letters and Musical Notes.” VVAEC partnered with Paul Starks of “Parade of Pianos” to present a musical component. That “Musical Petting Zoo” provided a display of unique musical instruments that audience members could touch, strum, and beat before and after the theatrical performance.
The productions, held in May 2014, were performed in unique settings: Village Oaks Apartments in Victorville, Victorville Senior Citizens Club, Adelanto Senior Citizens Center, and Hesperia Senior Living. In addition, VVAEC staged a theatrical reading of “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling for the women from “A Better Way Domestic Violence Shelter.” Unfortunately, a Spanish-language production, scheduled for Cinco de Mayo weekend at the Town of Apple Valley Conference Center, had to be cancelled due to casting problems.
These are the populations that are generally underserved in the arts, much as the grant required. In three of the six scheduled performances we were successful in having residents/members perform as the actors in the play.
Love Letters is comprised of letters exchanged over a lifetime between two people who grew up together, went their separate ways, but continued to share confidences. Because the actors read the letters aloud, we knew that this was the perfect play for novice actors to perform. So part of our journey included our talented actress/director Stephanie Brynjolfson teach these folks how to act.
“As we build our audience and community support for VVAEC’s mission to advance the arts in the High Desert,” said Davida Siwisa James, VVAEC executive director, “we felt it was important that all residents know that what we are doing is for the entire community. This project is a great way to showcase that.”