The Contemporary American Theater Festival Awarded Benedum Foundation Grant

The Contemporary American Theater Festival Awarded Benedum Foundation GrantThe Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) at Shepherd University is the proud recipient of a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to support the Rural Arts Collaborative (RAC). Supported by the Foundation, students from Magnolia High School in Wetzel County, West Virginia will tour their immersive art exhibition, Where?, to Shepherdstown for an arts residency this month during the Contemporary American Theater Festival. The student artists will showcase and share their work with Eastern Panhandle residents and visitors.

This is one of two RAC residencies newly introduced to WV thru Oglebay Institute in 2017-18 and funded by the Benedum Foundation. RAC residencies have been offered in Pennsylvania since 2012. However, this is the first installation residency of its type for RAC. Where? originally opened at the Wetzel County Museum in New Martinsville earlier this summer.

Mentored by West Virginia native and award winning artist, Michael McKowen, students from Magnolia High School created Where?, an art exhibition inspired by their experience growing up in a rural community. After answering questions about their day-to-day life in New Martinsville, the students translated their answers into the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic installation.

Thanks to the support from the Benedum Foundation, Eastern Panhandle residents and visitors can experience Where? July 20 and 21 on Shepherd University's campus. The Foundation is also providing students the opportunity to participate in panel discussions surrounding their artistic collaboration.

Vice President of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, James V. Denova praises the creativity and impact of Where? "This project is at the heart of what the Benedum is pleased to fund - those things that impact education. We are so excited that these students from Magnolia High School in Wetzel County have the opportunity to experience broader regional exposure, celebrate their success, and share their stories about their participation in the project during the 2018 Contemporary American Theater Festival."

As a former educator, Carmelle Nickens, Founder and Manager of the Rural Arts Collaborative Project advocates for the positive impact that the arts have on students. Artistic, hands-on, project based learning encourages students to explore new perspectives and opens up a new way of thinking, which will continue throughout their lives. The impacts of projects like Where? "is exactly why the RAC was formed."

Denova adds "Ultimately we know from research and statics, participation in arts education programs improves cognitive development and learning skills for everyone across the board." The Foundation is pleased to provide this opportunity for Magnolia High School students.

Not only will the students who created this art piece tour their work, they will also take part in CATF's Hostel YOUTH, (HY) program. HY is an immersive, three-day camp that provides high-school students hands-on opportunities to work with some of the greatest talents in contemporary theater. This is the fifth year of the Contemporary American Theater Festival's Hostel YOUTH program, which has impacted over 135 students from West Virginia, New Jersey, California, and other states across the country.

In closing, Nickens thanks those "who have believed in this project over the years, particularly the Benedum Foundation for its on-going support; Oglebay Institute for being the agent to introduce the Rural Arts Collaborative to West Virginia; Michael McKowen, our amazing teaching artists; and now the Contemporary American Theater Festival for giving these Wetzel County students an opportunity of a lifetime."

Where? will be on display in Studio 113 of the Center for Contemporary Arts/I at Shepherd University, at 92 West Campus Drive in Shepherdstown. The RAC Panel Presentation, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Friday, July 20 at 4pm and Saturday, July 21 at 4:30pm, also in Studio 113.

About the Contemporary American Theater Festival

Founded in 1991 by Ed Herendeen on the campus of Shepherd University, the mission of the Contemporary American Theater Festival is to produce and develop new, American theater. To date, the Festival has produced 127 new plays, including 52 world premieres and 10 commissions. Many plays that originated at the Festival have gone on to have successful lives in regional theaters across the country, have played on and Off-Broadway, as well as adapted into films. The 2018 season, running July 6-29, includes six plays in rotating repertory by Bekah Brunstetter, Angelica Chéri, D.W. Gregory, C.A. Johnson, Michael Weller, and Amy E. Witting. For more information about the Contemporary American Theater Festival and the 2018 season, visit:

About the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation was established in 1944 by Michael and Sarah Benedum, natives of West Virginia, as a memorial to their only child, Claude Worthington, who died in 1918 at the age of 20. The Foundation is a regional grant maker focusing primarily on West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania, which region it has served for 73 years. Grants are made to support specific initiatives in the areas of Education, Economic Development, Health and Human Services, and Community Development. The Foundation recognizes that economic regions do not follow political boundaries, and, therefore, the Foundation both encourages projects that cross state lines and supports economic and education initiatives that benefit the multi-state region centered on Pittsburgh. For more information on the Foundation, please see:

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