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  • Ondrea Li

Engaging Youth Through Performing Arts: A Regional Project for the Near East and North Africa Recap

From June 13th to 17th, we hosted “Engaging Youth through Performing Arts: A Regional Project

The delegation at the Voxman Building, watching the University of Iowa Summer Music Camps Performances.

for the Near East and North Africa” in eastern Iowa. The program welcomed 11 delegates from Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.


During their visit to eastern Iowa, the delegates met with various coordinators of performing arts and cultural events to foster cultural understanding and explore the role of performing arts in shaping contemporary values and building civil society.


The delegates arrived in eastern Iowa on June 13th and had the afternoon to explore the city and its variety of foods.


The next morning, Board member Melissa Meisterheim accompanied the delegation to the Englert Theatre. The visitors met with Senior Production Manager of the Englert Theatre Keegan Colletta Huckfeldt where they discussed the theatre’s role in providing diverse programs, educational opportunities, and exposure to the performing and visual arts. Additionally, they learned about the power of art and the need for art accessibility to all communities. Later, the delegation had free time to enjoy lunch in downtown Iowa City.

After lunch, the delegation walked to the Iowa City Public Library with volunteer Steve Merkle-Hess and met with the Director of Engagement at Summer of the Arts Andrea Truitt, Executive Director Lisa Barnes, and their two interns. They learned about fundraising, operations and marketing strategies to promote unique opportunities within the community.


Following their meeting with Summer of the Arts, the delegation had the rest of the evening to rest.


On Thursday morning, the delegation visited Halsey Hall for a meeting with the University of Iowa Department of Dance. They met with Professor and Choreographer Armando Duarte to learn about the dance curriculum, research, and education that goes on to support and deepen the role of dance in higher education and society.


The delegation then remained at Halsey Hall and was joined by volunteer Jane McMullen for their next meeting with the University of Iowa Youth Ballet and Community Dance School. They met with Administrator Jason Schadt and discussed how the UI Youth Ballet and Community Dance School invest in outreach programs that are committed to fostering curiosity about dance and nurturing artistic expression.


Later, the delegation boarded the bus with volunteer Marianne Weiss and headed to lunch and their meeting with the Coralville Center for Performing Arts. There, they met with Managing Director Evan Hilsabeck and Director of Education Katie Colletta and discussed the importance of accessibility, affordability, and variety of performances, presentations, and private events.

For their last meeting of the day, they went to the Iowa River Landing and met with the Young Footliters Traveling Playhouse. With Evan Hilsabeck, the delegation observed a portion of a rehearsal and then talked and played games with some of the young performers.


“I just wanted to say THANK YOU for making this day possible. It was an absolutely magical experience for our kids and our team here,” said Evan Hilsabeck. “Seeing our kids play theatre games with Dr. Ben Terdaiet was a memory I will carry with me always.”


The next morning, the delegation went to West Music in Coralville with Board member Newman Abuissa. They met with Ryan West and discussed the role West Music plays nationally in the K-8th grade music and arts education and advocacy.


“All of our appointments were exceptional – West Music was so much fun because IVs got to do an impromptu concert in the recital room,” wrote interpreter Rania Hijazeen.

The delegation enjoying the University of Iowa Summer Music Camps Performances.

In the evening, the delegation had the opportunity to watch percussion, jazz, and voice performances from the University of Iowa Summer Music Camps Performances. Volunteer Liz Bergeron accompanied the delegation to the Voxman Music Building.




The following morning, the delegation flew out of eastern Iowa for Los Angeles, California.


“All our hosts and volunteers were very welcoming,” commented interpreter Rania Hijazeen. “This has been our favorite city. Thank you for everything.”


Thank you to volunteers Melissa Meisterheim, Marianne Weiss, Steve Merkle-Hess, Jane McMullen, and Newman Abuissa for volunteering with this delegation! Additionally, thank you to the Englert Theatre, Summer of the Arts, the University of Iowa Department of Dance, UI Youth Ballet and Community Dance School, Coralville Center for Performing Arts, Young Footliters Traveling Playhouse, and West Music Coralville for being our professional resources for this program! Our work would not have been possible without your time and effort!

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