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Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Louisville Arts Council

Nana Yaa Asantewaa Louisville native Nana Yaa Asantewaa is affectionately known throughout the community as “Storyteller Mama Yaa.” Over a span of more than 25 years, her artistry as a keeper of the oral tradition has been presented through performances and “classrooms on stage.” Several examples can be found in the KET-produced instructional series Telling Tales.

Nana Yaa’s talents extend into several other art forms, too. Her sculpture can be found at the African American Heritage House Museum in Louisville and in the home of Dr. Camille Cosby. As a playwright, she has produced and staged seven original works for the Kentuckiana African American Arts Series, including Freedom Knows My Name, A Bus Ride with Mrs. Rosa Parks, Colored Troops and Freedom’s Road, and I Ain’t Colored No More.

In 1998, she was encouraged by her daughter to develop a community arts organization. With the support and guidance of Elmer Lucille Allen, founder of the Afro-American Arts Coalition, she developed the nonprofit Louisville Arts Council to help build connections among local artists and arts groups.

Run by volunteers, the council has initiated such projects as the Sankofa Arts Education Discovery camps for boys and girls, grants for neighborhood arts projects, incentive community builder’s grants, a special reception for the University of Louisville African American Theatre Program, training for Professional Volunteers for the Arts, the Professional Intern Pool Program, and the Louisville Arts Advisory Network. Current efforts include a proposed National Community Arts Summit and Street Fair for 2004 and the Community Arts Louisville Listing (CALL), a resource directory of artists in the area.

“I am convinced that community artists have been silently waiting in the wings to share the joy of their work with their community,” Nana Yaa says. “Because of these committed artists, community arts are powerful!”

She also has been gratified by the receptiveness of other arts organizations to the council’s work. “I am humbled by the support from community artists and patrons who have always been willing to share their time, talent, and resources,” she says. “I am but a mere reflection of their creative genius and generosity. When we had no rehearsal space, the Presbyterian Community Center opened its doors to us. When we had no stage to perform on, Actors Theatre opened its doors to us.”

Nana Yaa grew up experiencing art in her home, at school, on the playground, and at church. She credits much of what she does to “sitting on Grandma’s lap.” She’s now a mother of three and grandmother of two herself (the younger of whom has already declared himself an artist), and is determined that those same experiences will be available to children throughout the community.

A graduate of the University of Louisville, Nana Yaa is a past recipient of the Sallie Bingham Award, the Links Inc. Award, and the African American Theatre Program Award from the University of Louisville.

For more information about the Louisville Arts Council, call (502) 585-9525.

Program 607

The storyteller who founded the Louisville Arts Council, one of the top five iconographic artists in the world, and a couple who moved from California to Owensboro to teach bluegrass music to schoolchildren. (#607)


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