With its inaugural gala “Dream in Color,” on Saturday, June 24, the Canady Foundation for the Arts (CFA) not only celebrated local arts, arts educators and artists, but also emphasized the importance of providing young people with artistic opportunities.
“Tonight we are celebrating some incredible artists who are from the DMV, who are doing incredible work in the community, nationally, and throughout the world. And, of course, we’re celebrating our young people,” said CFA Founder and Executive Director Marjuan Canady.
Having pushed arts education with much of her efforts since 2015, Canady celebrated CFA’s work pre-pandemic, and since “the world opened back up.”
“Tonight we’re raising funds to keep this work going and to celebrate, to honor, all of the artists, activists, culture workers that are doing this work every single day,” Canady said during the event.
Held at the Hecht Warehouse in Northeast D.C., CFA’s celebration included an open bar and specialty cocktails crafted by Mixin Mimi and sponsored by El Silencio Mezcal, delicious dining options from Crown Bakery, a dynamic steel-pan duo, desserts from Georgetown Cupcake and a show-stopping performance from the organization’s Youth Improv Slam winners.
The youth performance was one way of witnessing CFA’s work in action.
“The program… actually exposes students who have never been in theatre before, never been on stage,” emphasized CFA Board Chair Carl Gray III.
The young artists performed the improv games, “What are you doing?” and “Stipulations.” During the youth performance the foundation’s founder, and one of the evening’s honorees, actor Jessica Frances Duke, joined in on the fun– improvising with the students.
Frances Duke, a DMV native who stars on Netflix’s “Ozark” underscored the importance of exposing students to opportunities in the arts.
“I started my arts journey with a program like this… with someone like Marjuan, who saw something in me as a young girl, who said, ‘Let me give you the tools, let me give you the resources, let me give you the environment, the people, the space, and the time,’” she said.
Frances Duke also acknowledged the hard work of arts educators and arts programs, recognizing them as life changing.
“I remember a teacher took me to see my first play… and it just changed my life. I came up in a family of visual artists, and I was the only one who wanted to perform, so I’m thankful for programs like this because they lead to where I am right now.”
Other honorees included: artists and arts educators Chelsea Dee, Tatiana Figueroa, Shanna Lim and Devin Walker; Shellée Haynseworth, who received the Storyteller Award; Natalie Hopkinson, recipient of the Artist Activist Award; and Cultivator Award recipient Alorie Clark.
Similarly to Frances Duke, Haynesworth said she appreciates the work of CFA because she began storytelling as a young person.
“I was part of a very active arts and storytelling scene, so I’m so inspired to see this group of young people,” she said.
Hayneworth also said she appreciated CFA for acknowledging the importance of storytelling and celebrating her personal artistic grind.
“Storytelling is critically important as we still fight all the tropes in our society. I feel like our story [can be] super one note, but as I look around this room, I’m inspired by all the beautiful storytellers and the stories that are here,” Haynesworth said. “Thank you CFA for the opportunity to just be recognized, because it’s a lot to be a storyteller.”