Point of View

June 6, 2011, 3:30 pm
Filed under: AileyCamp, Volunteerism

This time of year brings a whole new wave of AileyCamp Miami participants to our doors, and it takes a significant amount of volunteer support to make sure that everything runs smoothly.  April 30th was the kick-off date for AileyCamp Miami 2011. Auditions and interviews were conducted for potential campers. More than 400 candidates turned out for the chance to experience what has been called the finest dance training camp in the country.

This year,  the Center’s Volunteer Services team recruited its Youth Corps volunteers—who are under 18 years old—along with their volunteering parents, to make the Ailey Campers’ first look at the Arsht Center welcoming.  The energy of the youth corps was essential to the success of the day – the runners spent the entire day taking the younger campers to their interviews and auditions.  The Center’s volunteer youth corps is close in age to that of the Campers themselves, making them ideal Center ambassadors for this program.

At this event, three of the Center’s volunteering families participated.  15-year-old Madisyn Fluitt volunteers with her grandmother Lilian and mother Edith; 15-year-old David Weiss often volunteers alongside his Dad, Shay; and 15-year-old Marniece Holmes was an Ailey Camper last year and now volunteers as much as possible for Ailey events with her mother Marniece Dixon.     

Families who volunteer together is nothing new for the Center’s volunteer program, which boasts multigenerational participation every week!  Having a parent volunteer with a Youth Corps member strengthens the commitment for both to sign up for a variety of events, and creates a unique arts-related way for families to spend time together. Most of these young volunteers will continue working with AileyCamp over the summer, and the Center is fortunate that it can count on such bright and shining stars!

June 6, 2011, 3:29 pm
Filed under: About the Center, Volunteerism

The Adrienne Arsht Center offers internship opportunities for motivated, self-actuating young people in programming, marketing, production, operations and administration. So far, more than 55 students from around the country have participated in the Center’s program.

None of these internships are dreary paper-pushing positions. “Interning at the Center is a real-life experience. We don’t just simulate a workplace, we give you responsibilities and a body of work, and the expectations are pretty high,” says Trish Brennan, Vice President of Human Resources. For a young performing arts center, internships are one of the best ways to connect with communities by literally investing in talented and capable youths.

At 17, Claudia Cereceda, from iPrep Academy, has been working at the Center as a front-of-house intern twice a week since November and is “involved in just about everything,” reports Theater Manager Alice Fifelski. “She’s not treated as a kid, but as an equal. She’s one of us. She’s given responsibility, and she can handle it.”

The internship led Claudia to an evening in April when she served as house manager for one of the spring season’s flagship shows, The Sparrow. A job description for house manager at the Adrienne Arsht Center can read like an adventure novel. House managers are at the front line of making the theatergoing experience as pleasurable and rewarding as possible for every patron who walks in the door. They are often asked to make split-minute decisions to resolve unforeseen issues involving ticketing, seating, accessibility, and visibility—you name it—right on the spot—before, during and sometimes after the show!

Claudia tells us what her experience as an intern has meant to her.

What have you learned?

“Being the front-of-house intern has taught me so much about what goes into putting on a show. I’ve learned that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that a regular audience member isn’t always aware of…and it’s quite a demanding job!

How has your time at the Center brought you closer to the community?

“One thing I admire about the Arsht Center is their commitment to community outreach programs. Events like the Free Family Fests are a great example of how the Center is working hard to spread culture into our community.”

In a sentence, how would you summarize the experience?

“I’ve been truly blessed to be able to intern at the Adrienne Arsht Center because the people here are so caring and they’ve all helped to make this a great experience for me.”

March 16, 2011, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, Volunteerism | Tags: , , , ,

My family volunteers at AAPAC. Yes, my family- wife Dollie, daughters Margie and Terry, granddaughter Libby, and myself. I tell everyone that we are the highest paid members of the staff. They laugh, because they know we are volunteers. But when I tell them how it has enriched our lives, they understand.

As volunteers, we serve and, like many loyal servants, we’ve become part of the Adrienne Arsht Center family. And what a family: students, retirees, professionals, housewives, husbands, and executives. From teenagers to great-grandparents, we’re united in a common bond to make our Center a special place.

We serve diversely. During performances, our patrons see trained ushers, welcoming guests, checking tickets and directing patrons with a smile. There are numerous additional volunteer opportunities. When program books have inserts, volunteers do that in our clubhouse, chatting, and enjoying a snack while inserting goodies about upcoming events.

Volunteers conduct tours of the Center, giving visitors a thorough experience of our beautiful venues. Volunteers work throughout the Center, phoning, answering calls, assisting staff, and preparing outreach packets. Inform Evelyn and Carolyn that you’re available, and you’ll soon be helping. We work on our time, at our pace, and love that we are a vital force.

When we arrive to volunteer, we’re warmly greeted. We visit Alice’s office, and enjoy some candy. In our clubhouse, we “suit up” with fellow ushers. There are always ample refreshments. After instructions by our knowledgeable house managers and tier leaders, we are equipped to serve our patrons professionally. Our compensation is not monetary. Volunteers don’t seek that. Superb benefits derive from seeing shows we choose to usher, and being given free tickets. Our greatest rewards are the staff’s respect, our friendships, and the knowledge that we are contributing to a better community.


There are a wide variety of opportunities for members of the community to volunteer at the Adrienne Arsht Center: as ushers, tour guides and wranglers, and as much needed support in the administrative offices, and at promotional events and outreach festivals throughout the city. In each case the volunteer is given wonderful insight into the business of guest and community service.

It’s particularly gratifying to see young people seek out and embrace these opportunities for involvement, and acquire the understanding that you always gain something, when you give something.

Recently, the Center had the pleasure of welcoming a group of 20 students of Miami Sunset Senior High School’s ESOL class (English as a Second Language), named the Close Up Club. The Close Up Club committed themselves to support the activities of the four-event FAMILY FEST, the Center’s ongoing series of free arts-related activities and performances, made possible by the support of Florida Blue Cross, Blue Shield and the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

Each student opened themselves up to the opportunity, unsure of who or what environment they might encounter, but with a great deal of courage and the desire to reach out and serve.

They ranged in ages, as did their proficiency in English – but they were unwavering in their committment to lend a hand. We are grateful to these fine young people, ready to challenge themselves, as well  as how the world sees them.

Nestor Cedeño, ESOL Department/Close Up Sponsor says, “I can say that as an ESOL teacher, I always tell my students that the best practice happens OUTSIDE of the classroom.”

November 24, 2010, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News, Volunteerism

Luis Valenzuela expresses his creativity in many forms:  Adrienne Arsht Center volunteer photographer, professional art photographer, visual artist, and fashion designer.  On October 28, adding to the excitement of our 5th Anniversary Season, the Center’s new uniform jackets and vests, designed by Luis for our ushers, tier leaders and docents, were worn for the first time.  The design of the vests and jackets is unique and according to Luis inspired by the architecture of the Adrienne Arsht Center.  The very distinctive asymmetrical design is unequivocally the Center’s own.   It is a flattering cut which works well on any body shape and size and can be worn for all occasions.  One of our most frequent volunteers, June Weinstein, wrote “How great we will look all decked out in our new uniforms!” and from volunteer Lupe Diaz: “The uniforms look great!

(L) John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center and Luis Valenzuela stands with two volunteers showing off their new uniforms. Photo by Manny Hernandez.

Having been associated with the Center since our opening in 2006, Luis has embraced the vibe of the Center. Who better to design a new look than someone so in tune with our image and energy?  Being a leader in the Green Movement for the last 15 years, Luis brought his zero-waste-in-fashion design concept to the new uniforms.  “I try to push the boundaries, to forge new ideas with my fashionable and provoking works, I pave the (run)way for a more promising and sustainable future with recycled and upcycled materials.” 

The fabric of the uniforms is made of recycled plastic bottles which have been cleaned, smashed, melted and reused. Both the fabric and design are exclusive to the Adrienne Arsht Center.   Aside from bringing a sharp new look to the Center, the new uniforms are manufactured locally and will help us in our pursuit to be a true leader in the LEED Program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 

Luis’ philosophy is in sync with that of the Center’s with regard to working toward a more environmentally friendly future.  “I think that our role in this Global mission of saving the planet is to create awareness of our environment. The artist has a venue to show people that even their discards can become art.”   And what venue could possibly be a better showplace than the Adrienne Arsht Center.

For more information about Luis Valenzuela check his website: www.luisvalenzuelausa.com

Volunteer and Create Your Own community
August 2, 2010, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Volunteerism

How many conversations have you had in Miami beginning with “So…where are you from?” Many of us have come from somewhere else and are now living in South Florida. Finding a sense of community can be difficult.  One great aspect of volunteering is the GIVE BACK that comes from a mindset that says “I am not just passing through. I am part of a community that I can choose to change.”

 The Give Back starts with the decision to donate time.  With a little research and planning you can find a volunteer project that fits just about any interest you have. This is the most difficult part for a lot of people—especially for first-time volunteers. Always keep uppermost in your mind that you are donating your time because you want to. 

I personally choose to give back to organizations and causes that reflect my interests and are an extension of activities I would do for myself.  I have woken up at 3:30 am to volunteer at a very rainy marathon because I won’t run a marathon myself, but wanted to be a part of the event.  I can’t stand a beach with broken glass and garbage, so that results in my joining a beach cleanup project on a Sunday morning.  I have run a teaching kitchen that was an adult education program.   I volunteered here at the Adrienne Arsht Center for 6 months before joining the staff.

For me, the reward of volunteering is the Get Back—the experience I take away for myself.  Volunteering is a way to make connections with like-minded people, and the result is the creation of your own community.  The decision to volunteer for someone else, to choose to spend my own free time in the service of others opens me up to the idea that I am part of something worth working for.  I get back the sense that this is my place—and I can make a difference.

Volunteer Leader Presents Family Fest, Jonathan Stout
June 28, 2010, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Volunteerism

The Adrienne Arsht Center presents Family Fest, a free series featuring family-friendly out-of-doors activities and performances! Your entire family will have a blast at this fun-filled day full of music, dancing, hands-on demonstrations, and mini-workshops. 

Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  And believe me it is.  But that small enticing paragraph deceptively hides all the intricate moving parts and behind-the-scenes activity that it takes to bring such an event to life for our community.

How do I know?  Last October I had the honor of being selected as the volunteer leader assisting with the coordination of this season’s Family Fest series.  I have been a volunteer with the Adrienne Arsht Center since its grand opening in 2006 as an usher and ticket-taker and now I was given the opportunity to do even more.

Jonathan Stout

So, what is it like to put on a celebration showcasing hundreds of performers and entertaining thousands of families and fellow South Floridians? In a word: Exciting.  Family Fest events run on Saturdays, but the planning and preparation goes on for months in advance.  That is where the Center’s staff from all the various departments each contribute to that singular goal – enriching the community. 

But those caring individuals who work at the Center are only half the picture.  I would bet that their numbers are equally matched, and possibly exceeded by the large foundation on which this event rests.  Of course, I am referring to our volunteers. 

Under the leadership of Evelyn Gigiras and Carolyn Woodyer, the Center has put together an outstanding core of dedicated and civic-minded volunteers who have taken on the Adrienne Arsht vision of supporting the arts, the community and the idea that giving back is its own reward.

Each Family Fest event and the activities, has its own theme, which weaves itself into the content of the free performances offered directly after the festival.  For instance, one particularly engaging motif  was the “Step Afrika” experience.  There were hundreds of children, all making African shakers as colorful as nature itself.  They were decorated with fanciful feathers and stitched with twine.  Filled with rumbling beads, they made a joyful sound as the youth practiced with their newly created instruments.  And it was not just the kids in the group that participated, if you know what I mean.

Along with the musical performances in the sun washed outdoor Parker and Vann Thompson Plaza for the Arts, participants could also take part in a “movement class” being offered in the Peacock Foundation Studio.  At the class, the assembled listened to some background and instruction on the art of movement, and then were directed to try it themselves.  They gathered, as a group, expressed themselves spiritedly and many found a little something inside they had not known before.

Then there was food and laughter, dancing and face painting, roaming characters and more.  At the later part of the day, nearly two thousand headed into the Knight Concert Hall for the free Step Afrika performance, on stage for a one hour show.  And when the day’s events started to come to a close it was only just beginning.  Because children and adults alike went home happy, satisfied and with a new love that only comes from new experiences.

And how was that all possible?  With Volunteers!  It takes a large number of people willing to help to make sure it all goes well: to keep the kids motivated to try new things; to open their eyes to new wonders; to give them life awareness and to help them with their scissors and glue.  Volunteering is not just about showing up – it’s about giving back.  It is about the time you share with others, and the common goals that are reached through working together.

My role as a volunteer leader is merely a conduit to funnel all this goodness in the right direction.  I cannot make sure the projects are getting created, the faces are getting painted, the dance movements are graceful and meaningful, or the artists appear on stage at the right time, but I know I can count of my volunteers to do that.  I thank them for their contribution to the arts, their community and to the Center.

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