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Sunshine Cultural Arts Center Opens in East St. Louis

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The new Sunshine Cultural Arts Center in East St. Louis provides access to the arts for children in the Metro East.  The Center’s newest program “Growing Through the Arts”, made possible through a grant from The Monsanto Fund, allows children to learn about music, drumming and dancing in a safe haven after school. (photo credit: Community Performance Ensemble)

The new Sunshine Cultural Arts Center in East St. Louis provides access to the arts for children in the Metro East. The Center’s newest program “Growing Through the Arts”, made possible through a grant from The Monsanto Fund, allows children to learn about music, drumming and dancing in a safe haven after school. (photo credit: Community Performance Ensemble)

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EAST ST. LOUIS. Ill. (KMOX) - With four years of repairs and renovation behind them, the Community Performance Ensemble celebrated the transformation of a former East St. Louis elementary school into the Sunshine Cultural Arts Center with a grand opening and public celebration at its new 630 North 59th Street location Saturday.

Interactive tours of the new facility, games for children along with refreshments and entertainment by the Community Performance Ensemble drum and dance corps made up the open house.

“This was truly a celebration 35 years in the making,” said Dr. Ray Landis, chair of the Ensemble’s board of directors. “That is how long this group has been uplifting the lives of undeserved Metro East youth through the arts. We’re thrilled we can now celebrate the Ensemble’s new home and the opportunity to start programs here like Growing Through the Arts so all area children can access the arts.”

Growing Through the Arts is a new after school program now taking place at the new location. It is designed to provide area children with a safe haven where they can embrace and learn more about music, dance, culture and performance. Growing Through the Arts program begins this Fall 2013 and is made possible through a grant from The Monsanto Fund.

“Culture is a way of life. Someone has to teach that back,” dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham told the Center’s executive director Sylvester “Sunshine” Lee when he was Dunham’s student and mentee. Doing just that is what the celebrated drummer and choreographer now does every day with programs like Growing Through the Arts.

Working with the East St. Louis School District, the Center will also bring elementary students to their new location during the school day so those young performers can engage in a variety of cultural expressions like drumming and dance. The Center plans to grow the number of children engaged in their activities year-round to 300 over the next three years.

For more information on the Community Performance Ensemble, visit http://sunshineculturalartscenter.org.

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