Sarah Paquin, Education and Community Engagement Coordinator, shares her thoughts about Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Access program.
I have the honor of working with over 60 local organizations who tirelessly serve our surrounding communities every day. Through the Access Program, the Hennepin Theatre Trust distributes tickets free of charge, helping make arts accessible to local underserved communities. I am honored to play a small role in the distribution of 11,215 free tickets this year to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. Though, as you might guess, the Access Program is about more than just tickets.
Walking in to this program for the first time earlier this year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was amazed at the amount of enthusiasm it brings, and impressed to see how hard the underserved organizations that we work with fight for the enrichment of their communities. These organizations are not ticket-focused, but self-betterment-focused. And the difference is obvious in how they function and serve their clientele.
It has been a joy to discover the impact that the Trust can have by opening doors to these organizations. One organization we work with is called Project SUCCESS. Not only do they take advantage of what we can offer, but take it a step further and create curriculum around these shows to bring into the classroom of local low-income schools. That way, the kids are able to experience an amazing production on stage, but also apply it offstage and take ownership of the arts community they’re surrounded by. It’s through organizations like this that we can make arts accessible to people who don’t see it as such. It’s passion like this that inspires the confidence to take part in something bigger than their current situation. Art belongs to the world, and anyone, regardless of barriers, should be able to access it.
Another organization we work with is the Sabes Jewish Community Center. This organization serves Russian immigrants (among others), many of which don’t speak English. But the power of theatre knows no bounds. One member expressed, “Such outings to performances help fight my depression and loneliness.” Many people with challenging circumstances feel isolated from society. But art is the great leveler. You experience, feel, and relate along with other patrons, the actors, and the story itself. You participate in a shared experience. What a unique and effective way to bridge people together.
This year we almost doubled our distribution to these community and educational organizations due to generous donations from you, the patrons, the shows, and musicians we have come to town. It’s something that many of us want to be involved in: awakening communities through theatre. A friend of mine always says, “Life is art. If you fail to express yourself, you fail to live.” We all understand self-expression at our core. And I think it’s a powerful and available tool for the betterment of so many lives.
Stories like these occur with each ticket offer we’re able to distribute. Thank you for partnering with us in our mission to develop arts-inspired community. The reach is farther than we can see, and the impact is life-long.
You can make more stories come to life by donating your unused tickets (which are 100% deductible for the full face value of the tickets) or by making a cash donation. For more information on our Access program, contact Sarah Paquin at 612.455.9529 or visit our website.