‘Kwanzaa in May’ celebration held by Queen Ann Nzing Center May 14

To celebrate the culmination of a year of arts enrichment, the Queen Ann Nzinga Center will host “Kwanzaa in May” at Trinity-on-Main in New Britain on May 14, from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants will showcase multiple forms of artistic expression.

The public is welcome to see children and teens perform skits, sing, dance and receive awards for their achievements throughout the year.

In addition, the participants’ self-expression collages and painted masks will be displayed in the Stockman Gallery. Following the theme, “Kujchagulia – Self Determination and It’s About Me,” each participant created an autobiographical  print and cultural mask under the instruction of visiting artists Renee’ S. Soares, of Middletown and Sherry Edwards, of Newton, Mass.

Soares, a mixed-media visual artist and educator, works in polymer clay and creates beaded masks that have been exhibited at fine art galleries and private venues throughout the Northeast. She is also noted for her papier mache masks, painted silk scarves, paper wreaths and gemstone bracelets. A resident artist at Oddfellows Playhouse and Green Street Arts Center, both in Middletown, she is a faculty member at the Guilford Art Center.

Edwards lives and works as an artist and art educator in the Boston area. Her work has been shown in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and in throughout much of the United States. Her work is in the Xerox Collection as well as many private collections.

The Queen Ann Nzinga Center’s programs use the arts – music, dance, visual arts and spoken word – to build self-esteem and give children and teens multiple avenues for self-expression, said Dayna R. Snell, L.C.S.W., executive director, in a press release.

“Art helps you communicate in a way you couldn’t communicate verbally. It involves problem solving and tactile skills,” she said in the release. “Some people who don’t feel comfortable talking can express themselves through their art, whether it’s singing, dancing or visual arts.”

New Britain resident Khalidah Abdul Waheed, 17, has been involved in the program for five years. She’s a quiet girl who wants to become an artist, Snell said, and she found her voice through the QANC’s programs.

“My experience at Queen Ann Nzinga Center has been great,” Khalidah said, the press release from QANC said. “Every year I come back excited to perform. I love acting and dancing. Also, I love the activities they plan for us. We learn values and principles that we apply to our performance. I’ve become a better performer.”

Another participant, Savannah Freitas, has been accepted into the Honors program at Boston University, where she will begin studies in the fall. The release said she credits the training and performance experience she gained through 10 years with QANC with her success and confidence. A Plainville resident, she traveled to Spain and New Orleans as a professional backup singer to legendary soul singer Betty Harris; she was one of five youths in the program to receive voice lessons for several years from the iconic 1960s singer.

“I attended PRIDE, Kwanzaa and other programs since the age of 8. I learned about life, our diverse world, had fun, made friends and gained confidence through many amazing experiences,” she said, reported. “The most meaningful part of each program was the music. The variety of music and the people were inspiring. I had opportunities to learn and participate in ways like no other program I’ve been in.”

“When I was only 9, I was inspired and wrote my first song. Not only did Dayna and the others support and encourage me, but they actually worked on it with me to compose the music. The band played it and I sang it at several public events. Words cannot describe the feelings I had and the motivation that set in motion for me,” said Freitas in the press release.

“They made me feel like I could accomplish anything and that everyone has great potential if they want it and work for it,” Freitas said, according to the press release. “I’m from a large family, so without QANC, I may never have had such opportunities or tapped into my gifts that they nurtured and helped me find.”

Visitors will also have the chance to see the artwork of the adults and mentors who work with the children and teens in the program, including the photography of mentor Taffie Ann Bentley, of Bristol, Edwards and Soares.

In addition, attendees can try their hand at arts and crafts activities that will be offered.

The free event will be held at Trinity-on-Main, 19 Chestnut St., New Britain. For information about the Queen Ann Nzinga Center, see www.qanc.org or call (860)229-8389.QANC student mask 2016, Khalidah Abdul Waheed QANC masks 2016