India Association of Rhode Island puts an artistic touch on a cultural evening called Holi

Virtual celebration is on March 14 at 6 on Facebook and YouTube Live

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The India Association of Rhode Island will host its first Virtual Celebration of 2021 featuring cultural organizations from Rhode Island and performing artists from Massachusetts. Called Shades of Holi— An Arts Festival Celebrating Diverse New England Artists, the event embraces diverse cultures and strengthens intercultural dialogue with the artist community.

Holi (pronounced Ho- lee) is being held virtually on Sunday, March 14, at 6 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube Live.  Planned are various forms of Performing Arts such as music groups, poetry, puppetry, singing, Indian dances, storytelling, master instrumentalists and singers. In addition, the event will feature award-winning poet Sunayana Kachroo, whose film Illegal made the Oscars’ list of eligible for Best Picture. She wrote the dialogue and songs for the film.

“This celebration will help strengthen intercultural dialogue with the Massachusetts Arts community. At the same time, diverse Rhode Island organizations will be participating like Hmong Rhode Island Association, RI Black Storytellers, Korean American Association of Rhode Island and Puerto Rico Institute of Arts and Advocacy will represent different shades of RI’s cultural fabric and a true reflection of Holi, symbolic of peace and unity. This dream would not have realized without support of staunch volunteers and funding agencies RISCA and RIF,” Secretary and Grant Director Smriti Gupta said.

“Holi for IARI has always been a festival of community celebrations, colors, fun and unity. While we all can not physically come together, we have this diverse multicultural event bringing different communities’ talents and art making. We are really excited for this event and to host such an eclectic group of multi-ethnic talent,” said Vice President Dr. Parul Shah.

For more information and event related postings, click Here.

Lockdown story: COVID-19’s effect on an educational arts program

During the pandemic, Johnston’s Donna Tellier, Founder and Director of Johnston Dance and Performing Arts (J-DAPA), had to halt all programming for her students. With nearly all her efforts to keep her 14-year-old enrichment program alive meeting with frustration, concern began to grow about the survival of her after-school work in Johnston with K-12 students.

Her season usually consists of a fall and spring musical, and winter and spring recitals. The program specializes in working with young people who are interested in learning the technical aspects of putting on a show. They gain experience by learning from trained professionals. Her staff varies in age range and experience, she said. She added about her team, “We all have one thing in common – a passion to teach the arts and instill a love for performing in the hearts of all of our students.”

 DONNA-TELLIER
DONNA TELLIER

Heeding the call of economic hardship among RI’s arts community due to the pandemic, RISCA administered $1 million in Covid Relief Funds (CRF) to artists, professional arts education associations, and arts and culture organizations. The funds provided badly needed assistance to members of the arts and culture community who were suffering losses.

To fully understand the impact of COVID-19 on educational arts programs like Tellier’s J-DAPA, we asked Tellier to describe her experience.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected your work?

Donna Tellier: Unfortunately, due to COVID 19 we were not allowed to have our program in the schools. After careful consideration, I have decided to hold off on recitals until Johnston schools allow all regular indoor after school activities.

We started to hold virtual classes and rehearsals for our school musical Matilda. We were hoping to have a few weeks of free review classes, followed by an outdoor recital but ran into some liability issues. We tried to have a recital in a church hall but again, were faced with more liability issues. We even considered live streaming the recital on YouTube, but we were not able to find a location to record the dancers that was safe. Each potential plan that we came up with led us to a road block every time.

Q: Because of the pandemic, what changes and adjustments have you had to keep your program viable?

Donna Tellier: Personally, it breaks my heart that our students haven’t had the chance to wear their costumes and perform the routines that they worked so hard on, but the safety of our J-DAPA family is, and always will be our main concern. Rest assured, we will keep trying to make this happen as soon as possible.

I don’t know when after school programs will he allowed back in the high school, that is why, thanks to the RISCA CRF Grant, we have some help covering some of our losses. I was glad that our lighting technician mentioned that he heard about the grant on Facebook. Even with the incredible amount of support and donations that we have received during these very difficult times, J-DAPA is struggling to stay afloat.

I am looking for a new home for the program to continue. I am currently in the process of searching for a building to rent because after school programs are not allowed in the schools. I am hoping to find a place to hold classes and rehearsals safely and continue to offer classes at a low rate. If anyone has any connections or leads to a space that we could rent for little to no cost, please let us know.

Q: Can you tell us about you and your work in the arts?

Donna Tellier: As a young girl from a large lower income family I loved dance and theater and the confidence it gave me, especially because I was a very shy child. However, the cost of dance lessons and performance costumes were always too expensive for my parents, and therefore I was pulled from my love of the arts whenever my family couldn’t afford it.

I vowed that someday I would start a program for families like mine, for children like me. When my children started elementary school, I offered the idea of a dance and theater program to their school principal. Then, I presented our idea to the school committee, and we were approved.

In 1998, I started Thornton Dance and Performing Arts. All the money raised from performances and classes went back into the program to help make classes affordable for less fortunate children whose families could not afford dance classes.

In 2007, we changed the name to Johnston Dance and Performing Arts (J-DAPA) combining our Thornton program to create a fully inclusive program to the community and surrounding communities in Rhode Island. By late summer of 2016, J-DAPA finally became a state recognized nonprofit organization.

We offer many different types of dance including lyrical, ballet, tap, hip – hop, jazz and acro, as well as acting classes and singing lessons. Our season typically consists of a fall musical, winter recital, spring musical and spring recital.

Selected photos of folk and traditional arts and artists in our state

The folk arts are defined as those artistic practices which are community or family based and express that community’s aesthetic heritage and tradition. The learning process is informal and is passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth, apprenticeship and imitation.

Folk Arts Apprenticeships are designed to foster the sharing of traditional (folk) artistic skills between a master and an apprentice who is already familiar with the genre. The program creates this opportunity specifically for individuals who share a common cultural heritage.

Folk Arts Fellowships provide support to individual artists who demonstrate the highest level of skill and accomplishments in their craft.

FY 21 Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grantees

Folk ArtistAmount
Lydia Perez$3,000.00
Nader Molina Figueroa$3,000.00
Debbie Spears Moorehead$3,000.00
Julie Yang$3,000.00
Carolyn Castro$3,000.00
Lesly Pineyro $3,000.00
Patricia Smith$3,000.00

FY21 Folk Arts Fellowship Grantees

Folk ArtistAmount
Assitan Coulibaly$1,000.00
Joel Rosario$5,000.00

For more information on Folk Arts Fellowships and Apprenticeships, contact Elena Calderón Patino.