The prestigious National Endowment for the Arts has a vision to help transform communities throughout the country into lively, beautiful, resilient communities with the arts at its core. The “Our Town” grant seeks to support creative place making projects that foster creative social and artist collaborations for community revitalization. Out of 275 nationwide applicants, Soulciety’s Unincorporated project was one of 69 awarded in 2015.
With its base of operations in the unincorporated community of Ashland, which lies within the city of San Leandro, CA there has been a remarkable lack of theatre and performing arts programing available to youth. Soulciety sees the need to build a platform for the youth of this community for creative expression, hence the Unincorporated theater arts project was born. This project is inspired by the revolutionary cinematic masterpiece Metropolis by Fritz Lang (1927). Drawing from themes still relevant today almost a century later such as inequity, social stratification, and the exploitation of the disenfranchised, Unincorporated will also explore contemporary social issues such as system-involved youth living within an underserved, low-income, majority community of color.
Over the course of two years (2016-2017), Soulciety will produce a series of site specific pop-up theatre and art events along E. 14th Street and Mission Boulevard, the main artery of Ashland, CA. Vacant lots and buildings which contribute to the blight of the community will be transformed into live works of art. These pop-up events will culminate in a major theatrical production in Fall 2017. The project will reconnect disenfranchised youth back into the community by engaging them in arts-focused, paid apprenticeships. Through community revitalization and collaboration, this project will transform this unincorporated area into its own “metropolis,” with the arts at the heart of our town.