RiverDrums artists present “art-shops” to youth at Vincent Village

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Children pass around an imaginary egg during an improv exercise led by Jodi Depoy during her theatre workshop at Vincent Village. BRIDGETT HERNANDEZ

FORT WAYNE — Performers from RiverDrums, a one-day event that celebrates Fort Wayne’s diversity through the performing arts, have channeled the spirit of that festival into a series of “art-shops” for children at Vincent Village.

For five weeks in February and March, 10 artists presented interactive programming to elementary school students in the community’s transitional housing program, which serves homeless families with children.

RiverDrums is presented by Three Rivers Art Center for Kids (TRACK), whose mission is “to generate awareness of the causes and remedies of abuse in American society by working with other organizations to create programs that combine artistic expression with social commentary.”

TRACK founder and community advocate Terry Doran said RiverDrums recently received a grant from the city of Fort Wayne to fund the event in 2019 and expand it to send artists into the community. He applied for the grant from the Cable Fund Advisory Board through RiverDrums sponsor Friends of the Third World.

The grant funds programming that can be broadcast on public-access TV, so the art workshops or “art-shops,” can be viewed by the public.

Doran, who has taken a special interest in the issue of homelessness in Fort Wayne, hosted a panel discussion titled “Homelessness in the City of Churches” in 2016. He was excited to work with Vincent Village and proud that RiverDrums performers were sharing their time and talent with the young people there.

“I hope they feel inspired by these people. Not only by their talent, but by their character and compassion,” he said.

Each session included two interactive performances from artists involved with RiverDrums.

Theatre artist Jodi Depoy presented an introduction to theatre art-shop Feb. 15. Her goal is for children to tap into theatre as a “training ground for real life.”

“It exercises different parts of your brain so that you can visualize ‘I’m going to walk into this meeting, and give this presentation and I’m going to nail it’ or … ‘I know this test is going to be hard, but I’ve got this,’” she said.

Teaching young people how to harness their ability to visualize success is rewarding, Depoy said. She hopes to continue to offer theatre workshops at Vincent Village, eventually helping students write their own scripts and plays.

Additional participants in the art-shops included video artist Paul Brandt; musical artist and social activist Diane Rogers; coloring book artist Frank Louis Allen; Ashley Benninghoff, who leads the Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s Pineapple Dance Project youth performance group; martial arts instructor Steve Basche; Ginger Karns, who plays Native American flute; musical artists Kelsicote; brother-and-sister teen hip hop duo The Chrome Cats; and musician Steve Vachon.

RiverDrums 2019 will take place June 15 at the Allen County Public Library. For more information, visit facebook.com/threeriversartcenterforkids.