SIUE’s Allena Brazier is on a Journey to Bring Hope and Creativity to East St. Louis through the Katherine Dunham Fellowship
Remembering the creative influence on her formative years, longing to make a positive difference in her hometown of East St. Louis and identifying with one of her “sheroes,” Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student Allena Marie Brazier is achieving part of her dream as a Katherine Dunham Fellow.
Brazier is the recipient of the Arts and Education Council’s fall 2018 Katherine Dunham Fellowship, which continues through December 2018.
“Being a Katherine Dunham Fellow is in line with one of my professional goals of having my own community art gallery,” said Brazier, a senior majoring in studio art with an emphasis on sculpture. “It is also an honor to represent the legacy of Miss Dunham.”
“At about the age of seven, I attended dance classes at the SIUE East St. Louis Center for Performing Arts, where I learned Dunham Technique, jazz, tap and ballet,” said Brazier. “At that time, I thought Miss Dunham was from the area and was a great choreographer. Recently, when I decided to apply for the Katherine Dunham Fellowship, I did a lot of research on Miss Dunham and discovered a great deal more.”
Brazier learned that Dunham was not only a legendary award-winning dancer and choreographer, but also an educator, social activist and anthropologist who had roots at SIUE. Dunham chose East St. Louis as her second home and was committed to working with youth who had few opportunities.
“I am on a journey to achieve my own dreams and hope to have the same impact that Miss Dunham had on others,” said Brazier. “I am in awe of her decision to be brave, bold, creative, and not to hide her light. She fought for social justice by doing what she loved, whether it was through her anthropology work or creating an African-American modern dance company.”
“My initial focus was mainly from the artist perspective and creative processes, but this fellowship has exposed me to career opportunities in the realm of arts administration and community arts from a business perspective,” noted Brazier. “I have learned about marketing, database operations, and funding and development for non-profit organizations. I also will have opportunities to learn about finance, workplace giving, programs and grants, and office management.”
“The people at the Arts and Education Council are friendly, helpful and passionate about what they do. They want me to have a successful career beyond my 16-week fellowship,” she said.
The success that Brazier envisions includes her hometown. “I plan to use what I learned as a Katherine Dunham Fellow to open my own community arts gallery in East St. Louis. My gallery will serve as a venue where artists from all over the country can create and collaborate with the city of East St. Louis. It will be a space for residents, especially youth, to come and interact through art, and enjoy educational seminars and more.”
“The gallery will have the potential to create jobs and further education, socialization and community development,” she surmised. “It will be an outlet where people can express themselves in a safe environment. The gallery will show people that East St. Louis can create positive, successful opportunities.”
Photo: SIUE senior Allena Marie Brazier is a fall 2018 Katherine Dunham Fellow.