- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Challenge America, the community arts program that persuaded Congress to raise funding for the National Endowment for the Arts a few years ago, was scheduled to announce 249 grants worth $2.2 million today for its Positive Alternatives for Youth program.
Funded projects will serve youths in rural areas, as well as low-income urban neighborhoods.
Many of the youths benefiting from these grants are involved with the juvenile-justice system, live in public housing or speak little English.
Challenge America received $17 million from Congress for this fiscal year and distributed $2.3 million for 60 grants in April. A third round of grants will be announced in September.
In the District, three grants totaling $30,000 were awarded. Among the winners was the Dance Institute of Washington, which received $10,000 to train students in the performing arts. Partners in the project include the KanKouran West African Dancers/Drummers, the American Lung Association, the National Park Service and Planned Parenthood.
Cynthia Gertsen, Dance Institute outreach director, said the grant will fund an "all-encompassing program." Partner groups will conduct "life-skills workshops" on the dangers of smoking, conflict resolution and healthy relationships. Planned Parenthood's contribution will include sessions about various contraceptive options.
Also in the District, the Historical Society of Washington received a $10,000 grant to fund a program for Shaw neighborhood teen-agers aspiring to better their living conditions through subsidized careers in urban graphics design.
Participants will develop a visual marketing campaign to promote their neighborhood and propose "public art" ideas for urban areas in and around a selected Metro subway route.
The D.C. Creative Writing Workshop Inc. received a grant to assist three writers in residence to serve English classrooms in Southeast neighborhoods.
In Virginia, five $10,000 grants were awarded. Winners include the Boat People S.O.S. Inc., which will train Vietnamese Americans ages 8 to 18 in traditional Vietnamese dance, music, instruments and poetry. The project will end with a play depicting the history of Vietnamese refugees to be aired on public television.
Partners in the program include Vietnamese Public Television, Literary and Art Club, Cultural Society, Vietnamese Public Radio, and the Association of Former Vietnamese Political Prisoners.
Also in Virginia, the Arlington Arts Center received $10,000 to emphasize the use of "visual arts" in the Arlington public school curriculum. Students in Arlington County speak 60 different languages.
The other three Virginia groups receiving $10,000 grants were Arts Enter Cape Charles Inc., Eastern Shore's Own Inc. and Youth Entertainment Studios Inc. in Chesapeake.
In Maryland, two grants were awarded. One went to the Center Stage Associates Inc., which received $10,000 for its employees to run a weekly dance program for Baltimore schoolchildren.
The other went to the House of Mercy Inc., also of Baltimore. It will provide after-school photography classes for students in the Hampden and Poppleton communities. Students will create exhibits and two public billboard messages.
Eileen Mason, acting NEA chairman, said these government grants will use the "power of the arts" to revitalize American communities.
"The grants encourage arts organizations and churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other community groups to provide children with opportunities to learn through experience," she said.


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