Influencing positive change: Art, social commentary and $20,000
Influencing positive change: Art, social commentary and $20,000
Posted on 12/02/2014
GCAA logoTake a moment to clear your mind. Now, think about how you could influence positive change through your vision as a dancer, an actor and a singer.

Now, imagine what you would do with $20,000 to pursue that vision.

K T WilliamsKeith Tyrone Williams has specific plans, thanks to his share of a generous investment by the Regional Arts Commission (RAC).

“I’m using the fellowship to work on a production called ‘The Ties that Bind.’ It’s a powerful social commentary about how African Americans are disconnected from ourselves because of power, and how greed can manifest to violence. Yet, there is a powerful, rich legacy of survivors in our culture,” explained Williams. “It’s an original production that I’ve written, directed and choreographed.”

“I’m using art as a healing agent, and as a voice for change I’d like to see in the world.”

Williams, chair of the theatre and dance department at Grand Center Arts Academy, a Confluence Charter School, is one of 10 local artists selected for a 2014 RAC Artists Fellowship. The fellowship totals $200,000. Each artist received $20,000. They represent disciplines such as dance, visual arts, theater, music, literature and media arts.

For the second year, RAC has awarded the fellowships to St. Louis artists. The award is described as “a financial investment in the careers of selected artists. The funds will allow for the advancement of the individual artist’s creative journey to include time and space to study, reflect, experiment, explore and create.”

The RAC said the “amounts are not grants in the traditional sense” but they are a “financial endowment or investment in the careers of St. Louis artists.” The fellowship is among the few known multi-disciplinary awards of its kind in the country.

Along with the production, Williams plans to study and do research at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Williams is in his second year at GCAA. Being a teacher is something he is proud of. He was a substitute teacher at Saint Louis Public Schools while going to graduate school.

“This is what God put me on Earth to do – to focus on the arts in an educational setting to impart what I’ve learned professionally to youth,” he said.

“I believe in rigor, excellence and achievement. Education provides access to greater opportunities. I do not believe in mediocrity or lowering standards. Students can rise and they can achieve,” he said emphatically.

“Education is super important to me. I come from a family of educators. My great grandmother, Hannah Alice Bowmar, graduated from Lane College in 1888,” he said.

Williams has a bachelor’s degree in theatre dance from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, a master’s in theatre directing from Lindenwood University, and is completing a Master of Fine Arts in theatre directing at Lindenwood.

As an artist, he can dance, act and sing. His career in musical theater includes 16 years in New York City performing in Broadway shows and in national and international tours. He was certified by Katherine Dunham to teach the world-renowned Dunham Technique. Once upon a time, he owned a jazz club and restaurant called Margo’s in East St. Louis, where he is from. The club was named after his mother.

What is his vision for the future of his production?

“To have it on Broadway, to touch people’s lives, provoke thought and influence change,” he said.

The goal is to have it complete by August 2015 and premier in St. Louis.

“I hope to show at the Sun Theatre, with support from GCAA and Confluence, and incorporate students into the production,” said Williams.

Meet the 2014 RAC Artists Fellows