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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Asante Art Institute unifies community through the arts

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As the lights shine dimly on a stage surrounded by multicolored Christmas trees at Warren Central High School, 9-year-old Kamyriah Taylor prances on stage with her peers, singing “Santa Claus is a Black Man” during a rehearsal in early December. It was their favorite song from a recent performance for the Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis.

The Asante Art Institute (AAI), formerly known as the Asante Children’s Theatre, considers itself the premier African American arts and cultural organization in Indianapolis.

AAI provides creative arts training, performances, leadership skills development and opportunities for youth to explore their potential while interacting with professional artists and entertainers in preparation for their future career.

Deborah Asante, the founder of the institute, is well known in the Indianapolis area for providing resources for children and teens in the performing arts.

“The Asante Children’s Theatre was an effort to strengthen children in the community by using arts, and we were doing that,” Asante said at the rehearsal. “As we continued that work, it became obvious to us that through that work, we were doing community development work, and having an impact on more than the children. So, we created the Asante Art Institute as an umbrella organization to encompass that reach.”

Partnering with the Moorhead Community Resource Center on the east side, AAI increased its presence on the far east side based on community needs. AAI finds purpose providing a “creative and nurturing environment where acting, singing, dance and storytelling are used as conduits for self-discovery, personal growth, and self-expression,” according to its website.

Through AAI’s programs, including “Zora’s Daughters,” a program for girls ages 8-18 that focuses on creative writing and literacy, the institute finds its purpose in helping all ages of the community in the arts.

Taylor is a fourth grader at Tindley Summit Academy. Her grandmother signed her up for the program. Taylor, who has been in the program for three years, said it has exceeded her expectations.

“My favorite part about AAI is basically everything!” Taylor said with a smile.

Taylor is one of many excited children who anticipates participating in AAI year after year. She finds happiness when exploring every aspect of performing arts — from singing and acting to dancing.

As Taylor made her way on the stage with her peers in the opening number of their recent holiday concert, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” everyone had matching red shirts with Santa Claus hats and sunglasses. Despite the nerves that come with taking the stage in front of an audience, Taylor said she still gets excited to perform.

Contact intern Kamya Williams at kamyaw@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kamya_Williamss.

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