It started with a dream… to provide Osage Nation children with the opportunity to learn ballet that connects to their cultural heritage.
Now Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 2016 Dreamstarter Jenna Smith is seeing it happen beyond her wildest dreams.
Just this week we learned from Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith (who also happens to be Jenna’s mom) that as a result of Jenna receiving her Dreamstarter grant, this past Fall students at Pawhuska high and middle schools will be allowed to choose dance as an elective. Likewise, if students choose to pursue dance as both of their electives, they have the opportunity to earn credit.
“We will have phenomenal results artistically with these kids!” Randy said.
In addition, due to all the publicity from Jenna’s Dreamstarter project over $50,000 was raised in the past two years for productions of the Nutcracker Ballet.
In December of 2017, production featured 64 children (most of whom attended Jenna’s Dreamstarter class) and every child who auditioned received a role. Every seat sold out in the 555-seat Constantine Theater in Pawhuska, one of the oldest operating theaters in the state which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In December of 2018, the most recent production of the Nutcracker, approximately 650 children were invited to performances of the Nutcracker. The ballet was also performed for 2 public performances.
While the Constantine Theater is a lovely space, its stage is less than 28 feet wide and a stage up to 50 feet wide is needed to accommodate all the students who want to be able to dance to their full potential. (“They run into each other on stage, so hold back in their performance,” says Randy.)
And right now, an Osage tribal member is working on a feasibility study to determine if a performing arts theater can be constructed to meet the demand.
The state arts council is so excited about this prospect that they are working to see how they all can make it happen and assist them in the process, including helping to secure grants.
The local government is also an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed arts center.
“When I told the city manager about the theater, he said to be sure and let him know where we want to put the theater because the city will want to participate in this project,” said Randy.
“We will most likely end up being an arts magnet school which will bring new families into our community,” she added. “All of this in a town of 3,500 people!”
“And it all started with a man who said, ‘Let’s help them see their dreams come true.’”