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May 6, 2020

Bringing the Community Together: A Profile of UMS Community Partners

By UMS Education

In the 2019/20 season, UMS was fortunate to collaborate with over 30 community partners, and over the past few weeks our Education and Community Engagement team has been actively checking in with them. We were amazed to hear how our community partners have adjusted to these tough times and how they are adapting their operations in order to keep serving the Southeast Michigan community. Here are a few of their stories:

Flint School of Performing Arts

Flint School of Performing Arts

Flint School of Performing Arts (FSPA) has moved approximately 75% of instruction online, and has increased its social media presence by including more content generated by students, faculty, and FSPA alumni.

Normally, FSPA serves nearly 4,000 people annually through dance and music lessons, classes, performance ensembles, and music therapy, both on-site at the Flint Institute of Music and at locations throughout Flint and Genesee County. For decades, FSPA has worked to increase accessibility in the arts for traditionally underserved populations by developing culturally sensitive pedagogy and through tuition assistance programs. With the COVID-19 crisis, their focus has shifted to making sure that their teachers have the necessary training and equipment to instruct virtually and that their students have access to technology so they can continue to learn.

The crisis is exacerbating the gap between those with resources and those without, whether because of a lack of technology or heightened financial need. FSPA is currently creating a new fund to support their students’ needs beyond tuition, such as repairing a bow, purchasing pointe shoes, or procuring reeds for wind instruments.

Check out their pages on social media to see how students and teachers are connecting in very creative ways! Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.


Riverside Arts Center

Riverside Arts Center

Riverside Arts Center (RAC), an accessible facility that serves as a hub for a variety of artistic ventures, has developed a number of online resources to empower the Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County community during the crisis. They have created an online gallery entitled PRESENT, consisting of 99 images by 26 artists; digitized their creativity toolkit; and are planning to host a new virtual leadership series and offer free online classes to spark creativity.

Typically, RAC supports the creative community in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, and the surrounding area by providing affordable spaces for events, offering visual arts and dance classes, presenting local theater companies, hosting civic/social events, and curating thought-provoking art in their community art gallery. They also have a K-12 program that places teaching artists in Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Since the pandemic, RAC’s biggest challenge has been financial. They have had to furlough staff in an effort to help the organization survive through the pandemic without their normal revenue streams. Despite the current financial constraints, RAC is overwhelmed by the love from the community and struck by how the arts sector in Washtenaw County has been a pillar of strength.

Currently, RAC is hopeful to present a modified version of its 2020 summer camp program while keeping community safety top priority.


El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil

El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil

For over 25 years, El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil (EBFE) has empowered and fostered the Mexican culture of mariachi music and folkloric dance, providing bilingual theater and Mexican cultural enrichment events throughout the Greater Flint area. They serve over 100 youth and adult students through ensemble classes, private lessons, and summer workshops, and last year presented 40 performances drawing in 9,000 audience members.

To continue serving their students and audiences during this pandemic, EBFE has migrated all their instructional classes, recitals, and performances to online and social media platforms, overcoming hurdles with internet connectivity and sound delays during digital instruction. In addition, they are focusing more attention on broadening understanding of Mexican culture and history.

After moving online, EBFE has noticed that families are getting more involved with lessons and are helping students practice their Spanish. EBFE plans to launch a video/audio archive of their performances, rehearsals, and instruction soon.

We encourage you to learn more about these outstanding community organizations, Flint School of Performing Arts, Riverside Arts Center, and El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, by visiting their websites, where you can find out how to support their efforts.