Yadkin County has a rich history of performing arts, but until recent years there has not been a home for those performances. All that changed when the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center opened in 2010, followed by the Willingham Theater space in 2012. Now another new space is being added where performers, and the community at large, can gather for rehearsals, dance classes and more.
A welcome home potluck event took place on Saturday at the former Allison Oaks tasting room on Main Street in Yadkinville. The space will now be home to the Willingham Performing Arts Academy (WPAA.)
Jessie Grant, outreach and education director at the Yadkin Arts Council, said the space is a dream come true and will be a great asset for the community. In addition to serving as a rehearsal space for performances at the Willingham Theater, WPAA will offer dance, acting and vocal classes.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the new Willingham Performing Arts Academy in Yadkinville,” said Charlie Klutz. “I will be teaching vocal performance (singing) and musical theater classes that focus on using the voice to tell a compelling story. I am blessed to get to work alongside the talented Jessie Grant and Luke Miller, and I cannot wait to begin this incredible journey with them.”
Tap, hip hop and Broadway dancing are just a few of the dance styles that will be taught at WPAA by instructor Luke Miller. Grant said that local dance teacher Mitzi Davis also will be working with the group as well as other other instructors. Classes for the community including senior dance classes, mommy and me, and maternity dancing will be available.
“I am beyond excited to be a part of WPAA and even more so to be doing it in Yadkinville,” said Miller. “I consider Yadkin County my home and it warms my heart to know that I will be helping students in Yadkin County, and the surrounding areas, to be pushed creatively and grow artistically.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t think anything like this would ever be possible in a small town like Yadkinville, and I am so happy to be able to prove ‘young me’ wrong. I cannot wait to be able to provide a performing arts education program to so many students either young or young at heart.”
Grant will teach theater classes including courses for credit for homeschool students, youth classes for grades three through five and college audition prep classes.
“I am so thankful for this opportunity to see a dream come true in Yadkin County,” said Grant. “Many years ago, as a senior in college, I wrote up a production manual for a project about a youth program for theater in Yadkin County and now I get to see that come true. I get to see it come true with my dream team, the people that are my top choice, Luke Miller and Charlie Klutz. They are absolutely phenomenal in what they do in their area and when you combine our talents together, it was a dynamic team. I am so thrilled to see us put up quality productions and give amazing training to our community. Here’s to what happens in our next chapter!”
Several workshops are planned for the coming months and WPAA will officially open later this summer.
Youth who have been performing for several years at the Willingham Theater are over the moon about this new space and the new classes to which they will soon have access.
“The thing I’m most excited for is just the variety of things going on,” said Lincoln Funderburk. Funderburk performed in the Willingham Theater’s production of “Our Town” in 2014 and has gone on to perform in many shows since then.
As the Willingham Theater plays host to other events such as musical guests and comedians, finding a place to rehearse has often been a challenge for the community theater group.
“This is going to allow us to have a lot more rehearsal time,” Allison Pardue said of the new WPAA space. Pardue also performed in “Our Town” and has performed in numerous shows in the area.
Grant said she hopes the WPAA will become a venue for community building and instilling the value of the arts, especially for younger generations.
“Anything we can do to make this place a place where youth is raised in the arts, they appreciate it and they will cherish it their entire life is the goal,” she said.
For more information visit www.yadkinarts.org.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.