By Amy Bareham
Arts & Science Council Cultural & Community Investment Intern
We are all curators of powerful stories.
From childhood to old age or brokenness to victory, we fill the pages of our lives with characters that have tales of their own. And at the intersection of all these stories are groups like the Possibility Project-Charlotte.
Founded by Nikkeia Wiler, the project empowers teenagers to talk in ways they may never have before. Speaking through art mediums like theatre, dance and song, project participants learn how to trust the world with their journeys to date, working together during creative seasons in order to produce performances for the community.
The Possibility Project (courtesy Dréa Cunningham, photo artist)
There are three primary components to a Possibility Project-Charlotte season: awareness, arts and action. This trifecta becomes a vehicle for change within youth.
The organization is “a training ground for helping teens care more about others at a time when most of us really just think about ourselves, and [uses] the performing arts to strengthen their voices,” said Wiler, also the managing and artistic director for the program.
So how does the program work? Students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are invited to audition.
“They’ll have to come to an orientation and audition process that’s really about how the group interacts with each other…we’re seeing what personality you bring to the room…how cooperative, or not, you are with a variety of young people,” Wiler explained.
Sixty students are selected to form their ensemble, which meets weekly and functions as a group story sharing collective. Professional vocal, music and choreography coaches guide the students as they weave together collaborative artistic pieces that add something both magical and inspiring to their cultural community.
Helping the organization in the development of five original Partnership Outreach Performances that tackle topics that are important to the participating youth is an Arts & Science Council (ASC) Cultural Innovation Grant.
The grant, which invests in emerging cultural organizations that show promise programmatically and innovation in serving divers audiences, is the result of a partnership between ASC and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It’s also something that Wiler is very excited about.
“There have been several community partnerships that we’ve really wanted to have to be a powerful mechanism for making change,” Wiler said. “For example, the plight of undocumented students is a new initiative we really look forward to. We’re hoping to do something with the Latin American Coalition youth group. The Cultural Innovation Grant will allow us to do just that.”
We all feel that our successes and struggles are validated when others actually take the time to read our stories. That is at the heart of The Possibility Project-Charlotte: pausing to look and fully read what lies in the eyes of another.
“When you look at other cultures around the world, the art is for the people. It’s not for those that can afford it or have the most talent,” she said. “It’s about human connection…and communicating around things that impact all of us.”
Because human nature does not change, this team’s work will always be valuable and necessary. It brings a heightened awareness to flaws in our society, simultaneously contributing to a rich cultural discourse on humanity.
“The [Cultural Innovation] grant,” Wiler mused, “it’s the catalyst for a lot.”
The Possibility Project will present its annual production May 29-30 at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St., Charlotte.