Delta Arts Partner Site
Stringing Success Together
Rosedale Freedom Fellow Arthur Evans is all smiles, as he prepares for his Summer Showcase performance tonight, as Delta Arts Alliance Artist-in-Residence Chelsea Young monitors his finger placement.
by Allayne Thomas, Robertson Scholar Summer Resident

Connections. Community. Confidence.

Delta Arts Alliance is built on bridging the disconnect between the community and arts education. This summer, the Cleveland-based non-profit has reached hundreds of students through a wide variety of summer program, but it is through its partnerships that DAA is able to have its largest impact. Today, partner-site Rosedale Freedom Project is slated to herald its summer successes in a Showcase Celebration at 6pm inside the RFP homebase at 705 Front Street.

Delta Arts Alliance has been aligned with RFP since its inception in 2015. Under Executive Director Jeremiah Smith, the program has reached hundreds of students along their educational journey and pushed them in their growth and development. This year, Delta Arts expanded its offerings to include two new classes at the Rosdalesite. Students have challenged themselves and stepped outside of their comfort zone in Spoken Word/Poetry class, and a pilot program for violin instruction called "Strings."

In Spoken Word, Artist-in-Residence Leah Allen, pushes the students to discover the stories they need to share. Poetry has the power to unlock secrets that we keep hidden even from ourselves. Finding your own voice is critical in self-development and confidence building. It can help students realize their own potential. As Smith observes, students often “find an art that they love and use [it] as a home base from which they can engage with things they feel less comfortable with confidence.”

Art is the realization of how our creativity, self-reflection, and need to express ourselves can interact and inform. Students were able to experience this first hand as they performed their poems for the first time at Family Day at the Grammy museum. Although nervous, students bravely shared their own poems and experiences, appreciating for the first time how to craft their own voice and share it with their community.

Most stunning has been the success of the pilot Strings program. Beloved Artist-in-Residence Chelsea Young lends her musical genius again in the creation of a violin class. Young has demonstrated an eagerness and a passion for educating students and pushing them to try new things. She encourages a mindset that is focused on “creativity and positivity,” all the while challenging them to not just apply what they’ve learned to her classroom, but to their daily life. One student, Destinie Jackson, appreciates the chance she has to learn new instruments and create music in a way she has never had the opportunity to before. Arts block is one of her favorite classes.

"Spoken word and Strings are not just about learning how to write a poem or how to play the violin. It is about seeing how to translate their voice and passion into a new medium. This is critical as often in unlocking the power of education the biggest obstacle is yourself," adds Delta Arts Alliance Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison. "The mindset you have in approaching new issues and new problems ultimately can determine whether the outcome is positive or negative. By using arts as a way to discover themselves, they can realize their own potential and see themself in a new light."

Delta Arts Alliance firmly believes in the power of the arts and sharing it with the community. Partnering with the like-minded, impactful organization of Rosedale Freedom Project allows DAA to spread the passion to more kids in the Delta. As a student reflected, RFP “show lots of love and help people when help is needed and they treat each and every kid no matter what age they [are] respectfully.”

Smith adds the goal is to have them reach a state of “self-assuredness, that what [they] say matters, [their] voice matters.”

To learn more about Delta Arts Alliance's work in Rosedale, watch the extended interview package below.

Video by Kyle Ryan, Robertson Scholar Summer Resident
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kyle Ryan and I am from a rural village in Ireland called Dromcollogher, however, I moved to Kennebunkport, Maine about 8 years ago. I just finished my freshman year at Duke University where I am still undecided as to my major but am considering both Neuroscience and Public Policy. I have two sisters, Kellie (18) and Jessica (6), as well as two dogs—Max, a golden retriever, and Skippie, a German Spitz.

 A requirement of your scholarship through the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is to complete a Summer of Service. What were your goals and wants with your placement?
When I was considering where I wanted to go, I definitely wanted to be somewhere where I hadn’t been before or where I may not have the opportunity to spend a significant time in the future. With my specific placement, I wanted to have some amount of freedom with solid guidance. I wanted to be able to explore my interests in the context of whatever work I was doing. I didn’t mind as much what the job itself was but was rather interested in its ability to challenge me. Delta Arts Alliance has definitely done that for me so far and has truly been inspiring place to work.

How did you arrive to the decision to make Mississippi your summer placement site?
I was attracted to the Delta because of what I’ve heard from older scholars about the intriguing culture, music and incredibly friendly people that populate this area. After talking a little to Rori on the phone, I knew that this would be the perfect internship for me and I am so glad I came. Every location offered a unique set of challenges, intrigues and quirks, but for some reason, that really wasn’t clear to me until I actually got here, I kept coming back to the Delta as I was thinking about where I ought to go, and here I am. 

You have a background in the arts. Tell us a little about that.  
I grew up with an extended family that was very into music. In reality, much of the culture of Ireland centers around the traditional music. Most get togethers that my family has almost invariably end with my dad singing a rousing rendition of “Botany Bay” or everyone joining in to sing with pride “Amhrán na bhFiann,” the Irish national anthem. More than that though, I got into music at a very young age playing the tin whistle and eventually playing the accordion and the violin. I love Irish music and find it to be an incredibly freeing way of expressing myself. I also enjoy making videos and telling stories through the lenses of a camera as way of sharing cultures and appreciating our diverse but often similar values. I hope that I can continue to explore my love for music and filmmaking not only this summer, but in the next few years as well.

Do you think that background in the arts has aided your time here with Delta Arts Alliance?
Absolutely—not only has it given me an interesting perspective on the interests of artists and how to ensure their support, but I have also been able to continue to hone my video making skills through the work I have been doing with DAA.

What has been the most eye-opening part of this journey, thus far?
It would definitely have to be the need for Arts in this region. I didn’t quite realize the issues with funding and lack of adequate access to mediums of creativity for students in the Delta, and am grateful to work with an organization that is trying to correct that in a meaningful and long term way. For me, music has been monumental in my development—I can’t imagine a life without it. The fact that there are regions like the Delta that have institutional obstacles to letting kids have an education that is integrated with arts is frustrating and my passion has become only more clarified with the more that I have learned.

What has been the favorite part of your summer residency?
My favorite part has absolutely been the people I have met. I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a group that are so willing and interested in engaging with us and hearing our stories while giving us a taste of theirs. I love being around people that are so welcoming—Thank you Cleveland! It has also been a blessing to work with Rori; she is an excellent mentor who is tough, and challenging, while being endlessly kind and loving.
Delta Arts Alliance Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison offers feedback to Roberston Scholar Kyle Ryan on his most recent video project. "Kyle has a beautifully instinctive approach to his storytelling. His heart connects quickly and deeply to his subject matter and that love and genuine enthusiasm is evident in his finished pieces," Herbison commented. "He has a talent and a gift for digital storytelling that will only continue to grow as he gains more experience. I'm excited to see where he can go with this."
What are your responsibilities, as it relates to the work here at Delta Arts?
While my responsibilities have varied each day, a lot of what I’ve done so far has been around helping organize information and come up with ways to analyze and create quantitative information about the Delta Arts Alliance programs. I also have aided in crafting grants, and creating videos for the organization to use as promotional materials. In creating videos, I have also had to do a lot of interviewing and working with members of the community to make content for DAA.

What have you learned in the time you have been on board and what do you hope to learn the most in your time with DAA?
I have learned a lot about how a non-profit works. I have been particularly interested in the difficulties facing these organizations that can be quite frustrating. It is amazing to see the tireless work of people like Rori and realize that this work is absolutely necessary for an organization like this to run. It is remarkable how important these organizations are and I am excited to continue to tell its story and get people excited about all that Delta Arts Alliance does. I hope to continue to learn about the dynamics of a non-profit as it relates to the local, state and federal levels.

Tell us next steps, dream job, life pursuits.
At the moment, I am a little confused about what comes after college. I think it will involve going to graduate school, possible medical school. I would love to work in international health policy, but my interests are varied and have changed a lot (even over this summer!) so I am still not entirely sure. No matter what I do, I will definitely be excited to use the lessons I will learn with my Delta Arts Alliance experience and keep my close connection to art alive. 
In this week's #SNAPSHOT , Delta Arts Alliance accepts a check in the amount of $200 from Partnership Properties to support its on-going programmatic activities. "It's wonderful to be recognized for the impact we are having in our community, and we can't thank Partnership Properties enough for the support they have shown and continue to show to the arts," said Delta Arts Alliance Executive Director Rori Eddie Herbison. Pictured L. to R. Mayor Billy Nowell, Tracey Buckner (Partnership Properties), Katie Grace Carlini (Delta Arts Alliance Bookkeeper), Herbison, Robin McKnight (Partnership Properties) and Libby Logan (Partnership Properties). >>>