Community Performance Ensemble Awarded $10,000 Grant from Monsanto Fund

Sunshine Cultural Arts Center kicks off “Growing Through the Arts” after-school program for Metro East students

This year, the Community Performance Ensemble of East St. Louis concluded four years of repairs and renovation and celebrated the transformation of a former East St. Louis elementary school into the Sunshine Cultural Arts Center. The grand opening included the announcement of the organization’s new after-school program, “Growing Through the Arts,” funded through a $10,000 grant donated by the Monsanto Fund. Growing through the Arts will provide area children with a safe environment where they can embrace and learn more about music, dance, culture and performance.

“This is truly a celebration 35 years in the making,” said Dr. Ray Landis, chair of the Ensemble’s board of directors. “That is how long this group has been uplifting the lives of underserved Metro East youth through the arts. We’re thrilled we can now celebrate the Ensemble’s new home and the opportunity to start programs here like Growing Through the Arts so all area children can access the arts.”

“Culture is a way of life. Someone has to teach that back,” dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham told the Center’s executive director Sylvester “Sunshine” Lee when he was Dunham’s student and mentee. Doing just that is what the celebrated drummer and choreographer now does every day with programs like Growing Through the Arts.

Working with the East St. Louis School District, the Center will also bring elementary students to their new location during the school day so those young performers can engage in a variety of cultural expressions like drumming and dance. The Center plans to grow the number of children engaged in their activities year-round to 300 over the next three years.