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Genworth Lights Up! is a Free and Fabulous Arts Celebration for Families

This year marks the fifth biennial Genworth Lights Up! Youth Open House, hosted by Richmond Performing Arts Alliance. Janet Starke, the organization’s executive director, is excited about the new offerings for kids.

University of Richmond, for instance, will be coordinating an instrument petting zoo. “They’ll be bringing world instruments from different cultures as well as instruments made of different materials,” says Starke.

Another newbie: The Alliance will provide a free shuttle service from several locations in the city. “Parents can get on the shuttle and come down to Dominion Energy Center,” Starke says. “We are trying to address the needs of parents.”

The free event, held February 24 at the Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts, includes more than thirty participatory workshops, lecture-demonstrations and performances in the visual and performing arts for youth ages three to eighteen. The event usually draws several hundred children and their families.

“Part of our mission is to provide transformative arts education to children of all ages,” Starke says. “We are working to increase access to arts for all.”

One of the most popular classes offered is stage combat. “It’s really popular with the boys,” she says. “They use pool noodles or foam swords, but they are actually learning stage combat techniques.”

Other classes range from introduction to violin to musical performance with participants performing at the end of class. “This is a large, unique participatory experience in partnership with over a dozen arts organizations and individual artists,” Starke says.

Organizations include everything from Puppets Off Broad Street and Richmond Ballet to the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community (SPARC) and Virginia Repertory Theatre.

The Alliance also presents the Wells Fargo OnStage Family Series each year that also introduces new audiences to a variety of the arts such as Latin Ballet of Virginia.

“Arts organizations from around Virginia will perform. This year, we are bringing in Synetic Theater out of Arlington,” she says, noting that all performances are held in the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse at Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

The next performance in the series, Virginia Opera’s Deep River: Marian Anderson’s Journey, takes place on February 17 at 10 a.m. Deep River shows Marian Anderson’s rise to fame as one of the world’s greatest concert artists, in spite of experiencing racial prejudice.

“Virginia Opera has partnered with us for years now to reach new audiences of families, many of whom are experiencing live, performing arts for the very first time, and to make opera engaging and accessible for young children,” says Starke.

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An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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