As community outreach director of the Kehrein Center of the Arts, Sharon Morgan has been tasked with the responsibility of providing quality programming to the students of Circle Rock Elementary. This programming extends to the West Side community of Chicago and provides a cultural experience that is beneficial to all involved. In her youth, she was inspired to explore her imagination and develop her creativity. Rolling out spoke to Morgan about her life experience, the importance of the KCA and the support of the city.
Talk about your experience with the arts and what made you get involved.
I didn’t really have any experience with the arts, but as a preteen, I was bedridden with back operations and looking at television helped me pass the time. I would oftentimes envision myself in the roles of the characters on [television]. I also read a lot, so I would make up small plays and skits where I could transport myself to magical places.
What makes the Kehrein Center so important to the community?
The Kehrein Center is important not only to the Austin community, but to our Circle Rock Charter School. From day one, Circle Rock has had an active curriculum centered around the arts. As the Community Outreach Director, it is my job to bring in quality programs to partner with the school. We began with a lineup of heavy hitters, such as Ravinia’s, Reach, Teach and Play, Chicago Children’s Choir and Dancing with Class Ballroom dancing. Our most treasured partnership has been our association with the Ravinia El Sistema Orchestra Program. The theater gives our students a stage to showcase their many talents and [it] acts as an extension to our in-school fine arts programs. Our students have benefitted greatly from their use of the theater. We have also begun to attract other high-profile organizations of the arts to partner with our scholars, who live in the Austin community.
What does success for the KCA look like?
When I envision what success would look like for the Kehrein Center, I can see the surrounding communities, Austin, North Lawndale, West and East Garfield, Galewood and the downtown area all using the center for their fine arts events. Success also means that it could be a beacon for first time organizations to showcase their talents with local artists. I would love to hear the phrase, “I got my start at the Kehrein Center for the Arts” in the Austin community.
What does it mean to you that the city of Chicago is supporting the Center and its projects?
It means a great deal to me that the city of Chicago is supporting the space. It lets the community know that our needs are important to the administration and they [will] be a staunch partner in our efforts to restore the West Side community as a vibrant part of Chicago’s tradition of fine arts excellence.