Art for community's sake

"Art for community's sake" Continued...

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

It's a demanding schedule, not only for the school but for its affiliated Störling Dance Theater. Photos and mementos of Störling's original productions decorate the walls. Two of them stand out: Butterfly, an interpretation of the pains and joys of Alzheimer's, and Underground, a narrative ballet depicting the history and abolition of slavery in the United States. Underground is the company's greatest success so far, and Jeremiah beams when the subject comes up. Instead of the usual evil-America approach when presenting slavery, "we wanted to show America overcoming evil." The church's roles in empowering slaves and inspiring abolitionists play a major theme: "God is the hero."

And the world takes notice. According to the Kansas City Star, "[Underground] is without doubt one of the most vivid, heartfelt and theatrically astute pieces of dance theater ever to grace a Kansas City stage, and it's an ideal testament to what a small local company can achieve with talent, imagination, and lots of hard work."

The Culture House earns 65 percent (or more) of its annual budget through ticket sales and tuition and picks up the rest through fundraisers and donations from businesses, foundations, and individuals.

Did the Ennas picture all this when they moved to Kansas City? More or less: They were seeking a way for the arts to engage the community through "excellence, education, and engagement." Now, the Culture House's STAR program shows at-risk kids that they can be creative, and a Professional Development program trains Störling Dance Theater members in apologetics, biblical worldview, and money management.

The Culture House doesn't plaster "Christianity" all over the walls or require Christian faith among those enrolling in classes or helping with productions. The Ennas see Christ embodied in the ethos of encouraging and sharing and being your best for the sake of someone else. Next summer they will host a conference for artists and others eager to use the arts to benefit their communities. "We want it to be a bridge for Christian artists to get into the marketplace," says Jeremiah.

Back in the lobby, the summer camp kids chow down on their Friday pizza, pausing for high fives. They may not be stars of tomorrow, but they're learning how to give their best and take pride in each other's accomplishment as they create a show together. Creativity is every human's legacy, and whether they know it or not, they are blessed to be taught by people who know where it comes from.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.


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