Amaya Wallace, the Arts and Education Council’s 2021 Katherine Dunham Fellow, has always had an interest in the arts, but her interest reached new importance in high school following the events of August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia where a white supremacist rally ultimately resulted in the deaths of three people. Shortly after those events, Wallace directed “A King’s Story,” an award-winning one-act play written by fellow student Joshua St. Hill. The play covers topics including police brutality, racism and the events of Charlottesville, Virginia where they lived.

“Art is a good way to make it personal. When you read something on the news, and you hear about people especially Black people experiencing life threatening things, you still feel dissociated from it because it’s not you. It’s something that happened around you, but when you’re seeing a play, or hearing a piece of music or looking at something from the artist’s or author’s point of view it feels more real.”

Monticello High School theater teacher Madeline Michel shared with The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia’s daily newspaper that she and social media accounts for the drama department received negative feedback surrounding “A King’s Story”. Ultimately there had to be security guard outside the front doors during the performances but the opening night of the performance drew a standing ovation and started a conversation about complex issues. The play’s run was extended, and Wallace and St. Hill went on to attend conferences and other public opportunities to share their work with the community locally and nationally.

“We also did change a lot of people’s minds. We had people come up to us after it was over saying ‘Wow, I didn’t understand this. I was really defensive about this, but this play has given me a different perspective so that was rewarding,” Wallace said.

Thinking back on her experience she realized she was passionate about the content of the play and the important social environment that she was part of at that time. That lead her to study sociology and African & African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She’s excited to take the importance of the arts and the learning opportunities from the Katherine Dunham Fellowship to her career following her studies.

“Amaya’s passion for the arts, spirit of activism and curiosity align with the Arts and Education Council’s vision to shape a vibrant arts community for all. We are excited to spend the semester with her as she develops skills in the field of arts administration, gains valuable mentorship and provides fresh perspectives with the Arts and Education Council,” said Cynthia P. Davis, Arts and Education Council director of grants and programs.

Wallace’s fellowship continues through the spring semester. She will receive a $3,000 stipend, experience in all the critical skills needed to manage an arts organization — including fundraising, corporate relations, database management, fiscal and board management — and mentorship from current arts administrators and leaders.

Of the fellowship, Wallace said, “What I’m really enjoying is that I’m learning and I’m able to put my passions and my skill sets in conjunction with each other.”

The Katherine Dunham Fellowship, named in honor of the dancer, choreographer and activist, was created and is funded by Sara and Jack Burke and managed by the Arts and Education Council. Wallace is the 11th individual to be named a Katherine Dunham Fellow. The inaugural recipient in 2011 was Antionette D. Carroll, a TED Fellow and founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab. Carroll will be recognized on May 24, 2021 with an Arts Innovator Award at the 2021 St. Louis Arts Awards

The Katherine Dunham Fellowship is funded by individual donors like you. To keep programs like the Katherine Dunham Fellowship happening in our community, make a gift to the Arts and Education Council today.

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