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Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Lady Hosts the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards

First Lady Michelle Obama was front and center yesterday supporting the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama with Jeffrey Meeuwsen, Executive Director of Urban Institute for
 Contemporary Arts and ArtWorks' Ja'Quari Moore-Bass (center).
High-quality arts and humanities education has a positive effect on the lives of young people, helping to close achievement gaps and lowering youth dropout rates.

The First Lady serves as honorary chairman and works with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Service.

The First Lady chats with awardee from the Young Shakespeare Workshop in Seattle, WA.  Photo/CD Brown.
Said the First Lady to the attended audience members, “Over the past few years we’ve worked to make this place a showcase for our country’s rich cultural life, and to throw open our doors to as many young people as possible. We’ve hosted students at concerts and workshops on everything from jazz to spoken-word poetry to modern dance. We’ve done it because we want them to know that they can be part of our arts community; that this community is for them. We say that every year. You own the space; it is yours. And we want to support your efforts to show them that if they work hard, and if they believed in themselves, then anything is possible. Anything.”

The 2011 awardees are Positive Directions Through Dance/The Dance Institute of WashingtonArtLab; ArtWorks; Fleisher Youth Art Programs; Humanities Rock; Native American Composer Apprentice Project; Positive Directions Through Dance; Saturday Academies of American History; Sojourn to the Past; Young Shakespeare Workshop; Zumix; 826 Seattle; and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City performed their vocal rendition of the great Duke Ellington jazz masterpiece, 'Take the A Train’.

"You guys sound really good", said the First Lady. “We have to have you back for the Holidays.”

This year’s International Spotlight Award went to Kampung Halaman (a.k.a. ‘Back Home’), a program from the Republic of Indonesia that inspires youth to tell their stories through media arts.

"On behalf of the Indonesian government, I’d like to express my deep appreciation for this award”, said Mrs. Rosa Rai Djalal, wife of the Ambassador to Indonesia*, who said the award “will have a big impact” on the youth in the Indonesian community.

“They can change young people’s lives. The can promote good things in their communities”, she said.

The 2011 finalists include (among others), the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. (NYC), After School Arts Program for Youth (SE, WA); the Washington Performing Arts Society (WA, DC); and the Young Audiences of Maryland, Inc. Careers in the Arts (Baltimore, MD).

See the complete list of finalists and other info here.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs that recognizes and supports programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. They also provide safe harbors after-school, weekends, and evenings for students of at-risk rural and urban settings.

President Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother, Ann, where his half sister Maya Soetoro Ng was later born. He and the First Lady are planning to revisit the region, to include Hawaii, when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum later this month.

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