Kristin Chenoweth knew she was preaching to the choir, but she was still going to make her sermon heard.
The Tony and Emmy Award winner Friday afternoon took a few moments out of rehearsal for the finale of her fifth annual Broadway Bootcamp at the Broken Arrow PAC to speak with mayors from around Oklahoma about the importance of the arts.
In April, Chenoweth was presented a special Grammy Award in recognition of her work with the Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Education Fund, a nonprofit organization that she established in her hometown of Broken Arrow to enrich young people’s lives through the power of education, entertainment and experience.
In conjunction with that award, Chenoweth said, “I had the opportunity to lobby for arts and education on Capitol Hill. I sat in front a number of members of Congress — who shall remain nameless — and told them how lucky I was to be from Broken Arrow, because we have always had strong arts programs.”
Chenoweth said she shared a number of statistics showing how students who study or take part in the arts do better academically and emotionally.
“But when I asked these people in Congress what were their plans (to help support arts funding), I got shut down,” she said. “It was like they just didn’t want to hear what I was telling them.”
It’s an attitude that several of the mayors in attendance said they have encountered in their cities and towns when they try to promote the arts in some way.
“The hardest thing is getting people to understand that the arts are a vital part of any community,” said Jerry Hayes, mayor of Fort Towson. “I mean, everything we see around us, outside of the natural wonders that God created, came from the arts.”
Broken Arrow Vice Mayor Scott Eudey said, “We have no choice but to invest in the arts. I’m a lawyer, but I studied music from the time I was little. I know that one reason why I was accepted into law school was because I had studied music, which helped to teach me about mathematics, logic, creative thinking.”
Mark Frie, director of the Tulsa PAC and president of ARTSOK, the Regional Arts Alliance of Broken Arrow, offered to visit Oklahoma towns to consult with them about bolstering the arts in those communities.
“Broken Arrow will always be our home base,” Frie said of the Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Education Fund, “but we’re wanting to make an impact in the state, the region and the nation.”
Frie said plans are in the making to build a new creative arts center near the Broken Arrow PAC that would offer continuing education classes for adults, as well as launching an after-school program for at-risk students that would serve some 200 young people.
Chenoweth said she has started hosting special events in every city where she performs, inviting young people to attend the sound check, take part in a question-and-answer session and even sing with her on stage.
The Mayors Council of Oklahoma’s Summer Conference is being held in Broken Arrow this week, as is the Kristin Chenoweth Broadway Bootcamp, which is giving about 60 high school students from throughout the state an immersive experience in all aspects of the performing arts.
Students have taken part in workshops, classes, coaching sessions and other activities, while preparing for a final performance known as the Kristi Awards, which will take place Saturday, June 15, at the Broken Arrow PAC.
Bootcamp students will perform along with many of the theater professionals who serve as this year’s faculty, including Faith Prince, Celeste Simone, Matt Berman, Tyler Hanes, Joseph Church, John McDaniel, Michael Orland, Kevin Chamberlin, and Kyle Garvin.
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