Partnership Delivers Smiles and Lessons for YWoodlawn Families

May 18, 2018


The futuristic beat echoed through the auditorium while family and friends looked on, bobbing their heads, bouncing their shoulders and snapping pictures in excitement.

On stage, 9-year-old Korbin squinted his eyes, focusing intently on the synthesizer and laptop while showing off his new skills with precision and a unique style. More than likely, he was nervous, a natural reaction to bright lights and live performances, but that certainly didn’t stop the novice music producer from doing his thing.  

Instead, what was evident was a slight upward curl in the right corner of his mouth that revealed a grin and a little of what he was feeling–  Korbin was proud. The rest were mere details. 

For kids like him who live in Woodlawn, where incomes are low and luxury is almost nonexistent, pride is important. For most families, money for living is a bit tighter there, which means extracurricular activities often land on the bottom of the priority list. 

Enter ArtPlay

“Many of the kids who frequent our center don’t have the privilege of going to the best school in town or paying for the best community arts programs,” said YWCA Family Resource Center Coordinator Jak’Lyn Tarpley. “Some have never even attended a live show! Our ArtPlay partnership is a chance to level that playing field and expose these kids to the world of performing arts. It’s more than a picture online or a video on TV; ArtPlay brings fun and learning right to their doorsteps.”

Located in the heart of the community, the YWCA family center is a free resource for all Woodlawn families. In addition to the 12-week ArtPlay program, the center also offers access to computers, family cooking classes, and many other resources free of charge. This semester, 11 students completed the ArtPlay in the Community classes, including Afro-modern dance and drum, spoken word/poetry and hip-hop production/beat-making, which were taught by local experts LaVondia Bryant-Square, BeShaun Leavell and LaShondra Hemphill, respectively. 

The semester of classes recently culminated with a showcase at the Alys Stephens Center (ASC) located on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Afterwards, all students and their families got to attend the extraordinary Ronald K. Brown “EVIDENCE” show in the theater. 

“The kids were phenomenal!” UAB ArtPlay Office Manager and program organizer Carlee Sinkus said. “Seeing it all pulled together actually brought me to tears.” 

Sinkus said one of the most important lessons taught through performing arts instruction is that individuality is welcomed and applauded, a concept often lost in traditional classrooms. 

“We want them to know that their creations don’t have to be the same as the person next to them for it to be correct,” she said. “We want them to know that they can be themselves and it still be fantastic!” 

The ArtPlay program offers classes that range from ballet to quilting to students ages 3 and up. Plans are now in the works for the fall curriculum, which will coincide again with ASC’s show lineup.

Tarpley said she is particularly thankful for programs such as this because they yield both immediate and future benefits. 

“The students who participated this year can now take what they learned and form a new outlook on what they want to become when they grow up,” she said. “The nuggets and seeds planted through this program will forever be imprinted on the hearts of these students.” 

And to that, we gladly give a standing ovation. 

To get involved with the YWCA or to support our programs, click here.