Arts For Learning Indiana

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Black History Month

Perhaps the mission of an artist is to interpret beauty to people – the beauty within themselves.” – Langston Hughes

In honor of Black History Month, we are highlighting our Black teaching artists every week during the month of February. Check back every Wednesday to read about our highlighted artists. 


Week 4 – February 26, 2020


storytellers drum

Griot Drum Ensemble ( Storyteller’s Drum)

Art Forms – Storytelling, Drumming
Years at Arts for Learning – 20+
Programs – The Storyteller’s Drum


Since 2000, Griot Drum Ensemble has entertained and enlightened local audiences through West African and Disapora storytelling and drumming. The ensemble was founded by the late Khabir Shareef. The group strives to preserve and perpetuate the oral traditions through the arts. The current members of Griot Drum Ensemble include Tony Artis, Andre-Rosa Artist, Khalil Mwayrika, and Komoyaka King.
Griot Drum Ensemble will be performing at Art & Soul 2020 at the Indianapolis Arts Garden this Thursday, Feb 27th at 12:15! Click here to learn more!
Click here to watch Griot Drum Ensemble’s performance at Center Grove Middle School!



Sancocho ( Tony Artis & Iris Rosa)

Art Forms – Dancing, Drumming, Percussion 
Years at Arts for Learning – 20+ 
Programs – Music and Dance Collage, Chancleta: A Rhythmic Experience, Instrument Making


Sancocho, (san-KO-choh) is a stew in Latin America that combines meats, vegetables and spices to create a unique taste. Using this metaphor, the ensemble (founded in 1995 by Iris Rosa Santiago and A.J. ‘Tony’ Artis focuses on music and dance traditions from the African diaspora that are Spanish-speaking and have strong African cultural retentions, such as Rumba and Bailes Orishas from Cuba and Bomba from Puerto Rico. The artistic director, Iris Rosa, and musical director, Andre Rosa-Artis, lead a group of drummers and dancers to combine a delicious concoction that is sure to satisfy your musical appetite!


Iris Rosa is a former professor in the department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Director of the African American Dance Company at Indiana University. Her specialties are teaching and choreography in the genres of contemporary, modern, jazz, and traditional dance. She has traveled and researched dance movement in Ghana and Ivory Coast, West Africa, Puerto Rico and Havana, Matanzas and Guantanamo, Cuba. She is also artistic director of Sancocho and Seda Negra (Black Silk), a dance company that combines traditional Latin American and contemporary modern and jazz dance traditions. Iris is active in the community as a dance instructor and mentor and continues to work professionally with dance ensembles and schools throughout the Midwest.


Anthony  J.“Tony” Artis works as a freelance musician in Indianapolis and is an accomplished percussionist, drum maker, and bass guitarist.  He is a native of Kokomo, Indiana, and has lived in Indianapolis, Indiana, since 1978. He began studying trumpet at age 12, bass guitar at age 14 and African percussion in 1990. He has studied in various cities in the U.S., Ghana, West Africa and Cuba. Tony received the Indianapolis Arts Council’s Creative Renewal Fellowship in 1999 and 2007. He is an African drum maker, owner of Amoah’s African Drum Works and Coal Bin Productions. He is the founder and artistic director of Ori Afro Jazz Ensemble and co-founder of Sancocho Music and Dance Collage.

Amauunet Ashe

Art Forms – Storytelling, Dancing, Writing
Years at Arts for Learning – 3+
Programs – Yes You Can Can – Make Your Body Move & Baby Artsplay


A native of New Orleans, Amauunet Ashe is a storyteller, dancer, author and emergent literacy arts instructor. She inspires students to have fun expressing themselves with each reading experience. Teaching creative body movements that excite the minds and hearts of children and adults, she is both entertainer and teacher.
Amauunet has also been trained through the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning. Wolf Trap teaching artists partner with teachers and caregivers of children ages birth to six-years-old to improve learning  through the performing arts: using music, dance, drama and puppetry to bring literacy and math concepts to life!
In 2016, Ammaunet wrote a book  of short stories titled “Flowering Unsing Love”. Click here to learn more about her book!

Portia Jackson

Art Forms – Storytelling
Years at Arts for Learning – Less than 1 year 
Programs – Honoring the Courage of Harriet Tubman


Portia Sholar Jackson is a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School of Indianapolis where she credits the Speech team and Drama Department for a rich beginning in the arts. Portia attended Indiana University Bloomington and earned a degree in elementary education and a minor in African- American Studies. Portia discovered storytelling in an unusual way-“she wasn’t deemed talented enough to sing in the church choir, so she was encouraged to do dramatic reading instead.” From that inauspicious beginning, Portia has become one of the best-known storytellers in Indianapolis. The power of her voice and her dramatic interpretations leaves listeners spellbound as she makes the words of legendary black women like Harriet Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune take on new meaning.  Storytelling has allowed Portia to weave her two loves of teaching and the arts into a successful career.  This very talented artist has founded and directed a traveling Storytelling troupe The Freedom Train that has currently 12 members.  The troupe presents stories to audiences of all ages throughout the country and emphasizes such topics as cultural awareness, self-esteem, decision-making skills, and American history.


Thank you Griot Drum Ensemble, Sancocho, Amauunet, Ashe and Portia Jackson for your dedication to Arts for Learning! We greatly appreciate your commitment to providing arts education opportunities to the youth of Indiana! 


Week 3 – February 19, 2020



William “Bill” Rasdell

Art Form – Photography
Years at Arts for Learning – 23+
Programs – Identify: Using Photography to Understand Self and Others, Picture Power, Capturing Humans Effects on the World Through Photography, Explorations in Photography


Bill Rasdell is an accomplished professional photographer with an emphasis on producing fine art and documentary images. Bill’s current projects list includes a photographic study of life in present-day Cuba. In 1995 Bill first ventured to Cuba as a musician studying Afro-Cuban percussion and folklore at the University of Matanzas. Over the course of several visits, Bill has built an extensive body of work chronicling this crucial period in Cuban history. His images reveal the spirit of the vibrant people as they struggle in the face of prevailing obstacles. As a recipient of the 1999 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship Award, Bill returned to Cuba in late 1999. In the course of his six-week residency he continued his studies of Afro-Cuban music and folklore and expanded his photographic journal of this land and her people.
“Throughout my career I have focused on the enriching impact of the African presence throughout the diaspora seeking to understand how these cultural relationships have evolved into contemporary societies. In that process I have created pictorials that bear witness to the path of influence and retention in daily life and custom in Uganda, Israel, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Mexico, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad/Tobago and across the United States.” 
Click here to view Bill’s Studio at the Harrison Art Center!




Jalynn Simmons

Art Form – Drumming, Music Directing & Producing
Years at Arts for Learning – 5+
Programs – Drum it Out: Using Rhythm for Body Awareness, Calmness, and Confidence


Jalynn Simmons is a Drummer, Trained Health Rhythms Facilitator, Producer and Music Director. She is a graduate of Central State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Delta Kappa Chapter. While earning her undergraduate degree, she traveled with the Grammy Nominated Central State University’s tour choir. Under the direction of Dr. William HenryCaldwell, she received her classical training. In 1993, the CSU Chorus recorded “A Gospel Celebration” with Jennifer Holiday, Lou Rawls, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The project earned them a Grammy Nomination.
 She furthered her studies in Business Management Masters Program at The McGregor School of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH. Jalynn has been drumming and teaching students for over 17 years. She has recorded and written, nationally, with the Gospel Music Workshop of America and performed with the GMWA Japan chapter. She has done numerous performances over the years. One of her most memorable performances was playing with an opening act for Grammy Award Winner, John Legend’s concert.
Jalynn currently serves as the Music Director/Drummer at The Way Church in Indianapolis, IN. For the last 12 years she has also served as the State Drummer for the Indiana State Missionary Baptist Convention. For over 20 years she has worked with youth in the school system and in the community. As a Trained Health Rhythms Facilitator & Drum Instructor, her small businesses, Joyful Noyze Management LLC & Indy Music & Wellness, Inc., continues to promote community wellness through evidence-based recreational music making and the arts.



justin sears

Justin Sears-Watson

Art Form – Dancing 
Years at Arts for Learning – 1+
Programs – Geometric Dance, Life is Dance


Justin Sears-Watson grew up in Evansville, Indiana, competing as a classically trained vocalist and spent his younger years on the stage as a musical theater actor and singer. He went on to Northern Kentucky University to obtain a B.A. in Musical Theater Performance, and then moved to Chicago, IL, training in dance under Alexi Kremnev, and Anna Reznik. He studied at the Cincinnati Ballet School as well as the Giordano Jazz Dance Scholarship Program.
Justin recently retired from Dance Kaleidoscope and is currently the Artistic Director of Phoenix Rising Dance Company. Justin has had the privilege of working with a myriad of the best choreographers and dancers around the globe. He is excited to now be Artistically Directing and teaching at his own studio.
Click here to check out Justin’s dance Instagram page!




Thank you William Rasdell, Jaylnn Simmons, and Justin Sears-Watson for your dedication to Arts for Learning! We greatly appreciate your commitment to providing arts education opportunities to the youth of Indiana! 


Week 2 – February 12, 2020


lawrence clark III

Lawrence Clark III

Art Form – Drumming
Years at Arts for Learning – 20+
Programs – Learning Syllables Through Drumming & Drum Dialogues: Using Drumming for Regulation


Lawrence Clark III has been drumming for over 50 years. He lived on Indiana Avenue at the center of the jazz scene in the 1950’s. He still remembers his father allowing him to stay up late enough to see the Ramsey Lewis Trio play. Clark grew up to be a drummer and a vibrant member of the Indianapolis Jazz scene. He was inducted into the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation Hall of Fame in 2005. In the 1990s, Clark toured Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Guam, Europe, and the Pacific Basin. He has worked with jazz legends such as J.J. Johnson, Lionel Hampton, James Moody, Grover Washington, Groove Holmes, and David Baker to name a few. Click here to take a look at Lawrence’s Drum Dialogues workshop!



Ronne Stone 

Art Forms – Dancing, Choreography, and Directing
Years at Arts for Learning – 8+ 
Programs – African Dance & Cultural Dance of West Africa


Ronne is a Florida native with a background in dance spanning over 29 years. Her earliest exposure to African dance was at the Orlando School of Cultural Dance. She was a company member of Kuumba in Tampa, Florida and Adefua Dance Company in Seattle, Washington. She has traveled extensively to study West African dance under the instruction of countless masters in this field. Ronne has taught several classes for Indiana University and was a lead instructor for the African American Dance workshops at Indiana University in Bloomington for 2 years. Ronne obtained a Fine Arts degree from Indiana University in 2010.

She has worked as an instructor and choreographer with the Urban Arts Consortium, Kenyette Dance Company, Assante Children’s Theater, Jewel Christian Academy, Ben Davis Dance team, Central Indiana Dance Academy, Indy Dance Academy, Circle City Dance Productions and Kids Dance Outreach. Under the direction of visiting International Artist Micheal Williams, she was the lead choreographer for Butler Universities’ production of “The Water Carriers” in 2014. She also performed in and was the lead choreographer for the Phoenix Theater production of “Dontrell who kissed the Sea” in 2015.

Her passion for children flourished when she choreographed Orchard Middle school’s production of the Lion King in 2017.  Her exposure teaching children over the past 21 years through the Iibada Dance Company has allowed her to develop her own children’s programming for preschool to high school. For the past 8 years she been a teaching artist with Arts For Learning. She taught dance as an elective for k-6th grade at Ingnite Achievement Academy 2017-2019. Currently, she is the Director and Choreographer of Epiphany Dance Collective, an Adjunct Professor at Butler University, and teaches Fine Art at Tindley Genesis Academy. Click here to take a look at Ronne’s Cultural Dance of West Africa Workshop!




Theon Lee

Art Forms – Hip Hop, Spoken Word, Singing, Songwriting, and Guitar 
Years at Arts for Learning – 4 
Program – Exploring Patterns through Beatbox: Ones and Twos



Theon Lee is an Indianapolis-native performance artist with expertise in the fields of hip hop (as an emcee), poetry (in spoken word), and folk (as a vocalist/guitarist/songwriter). Since 2010, Theon has performed to diverse crowds across the Midwest region, and has rooted himself in Teaching Artistry. He has worked with K-12 schools, recreational and afterschool programs, and programs for at-risk youth. In 2016, Theon joined forces with the Arts For Learning, and developed a curriculum that introduces hip hop to mathematics. Currently, Theon is a member of the Jazz Hip-Hop band Clint Breeze & the Groove. He also a member of the Hip-Hop duo C-Lunch. Click here to see Theon perform on WFYI’s Small Studio Sessions!


Thank you Lawrence Clark III, Ronne Stone, and Theon Lee for your dedication to Arts for Learning! We greatly appreciate your commitment to providing arts education opportunities to the youth of Indiana! 


Week 1 – February 5, 2020



Deborah Asante 

Art Forms: Storytelling, Acting, Writing and Directing
Years at Arts for Learning: 10+
Programs: Asante Tales, Once Upon a Time in Africa, Rolling Down the Avenue, This Little Light of Mine: Civil Rights through the Eyes of a Child


Deborah Asante is a storytelling and performance artist based in Indianapolis. A practitioner of her art form for more than 20 years, Deborah has worked with Arts for Learning for more than 10 years. In her performances, Deborah uses words to paint pictures, transporting young audiences to different locations and eras throughout history.

“I work hard to ensure that the words I choose and the timbre of my voice will connect with the listener’s imagination and easily pull them into a shared experience of the story.”

Throughout her career, Deborah has received numerous awards, including the Aesop Cup for Tall Tales and the Zora Neale Hurston Award from the National Association of Black Storytellers. The Arts Council of Indianapolis has also honored her twice as a Creative Renewal Arts Fellow.

“Storytelling seeds the imagination and strengthens vocabulary, “I always hope to inspire children to tell their own stories and deepen their appreciation stories and literature in general. Students are always reachable, even when it appears otherwise.”

Deborah Asante is also Founder and Artistic Director of the Asante Children’s Theatre.  To learn more about Deborah, visit her website.



Carrington Clinton 

Art Forms: Drumming, Producing, and Composing 
Years at Arts for Learning: 1+ 
Program: Creating Beats Together – STOMP for Students


Carrington “Clint Breeze” Clinton is an aspiring drummer, music producer, bandleader and composer based out of Indianapolis, IN.

He found his love for the drums at a young age, “pretty much out of the womb”, as his parents say. His father, David, was also a drummer in the church and gave Carrington his first kit at the age of 3. It was at the point where drums became a part of his everyday life. Carrington grew up playing drums in church and would sometimes play at the main services. Carrington grew a strong interest in how music works and the composition side of things. He’s always had an ear for what goes on outside of the drums. In grade school and high school, Carrington studied percussion at the Lawrence Township school district. He graduated Lawrence North High School in 2009. Carrington made his decision for college to study Film at Ball State University. There he continued to study music on his own, and continued to play and compose in numerous bands.

Fast forward to 2014, Clinton released his first project under the name Clint Breeze, titled Evolve. At that time, Clint started to make some noise around the city as a producer and a drummer, both releasing projects and playing for several artists in the city (Rob Dixon, Jared Thompson and Premium Blend, Tucker Brothers Group, Cliff Ratcliff, etc.). To date, Clint has released 4 projects and has played with many artists in and around Indianapolis. Follow Clinton’s band, Clint Breeze and The Groove on Instagram!

Thank you Deborah Asante and Carrington Clinton for your dedication to Arts for Learning! We greatly appreciate your commitment to providing arts education opportunities to the youth of Indiana! 


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