Instruments of Culture and Agents of Change: Performing Arts Training as a Vehicle for Empowerment and Wellbeing among Alabama Youth

This project engages area high school students in an anthropology and arts training program, the purpose of which is to elicit their lived experiences and develop their capacity to contextualize and analyze those experiences through vocal and dance performance. Over the twelve weeks of the program, participants will: capture aspects of their lives through video, photovoice, and group conversation; synthesize those experiences into themes; and build skill in transforming and translating those themes into a cabaret performance for the local community. The project will take place at Central High School (Tuscaloosa, AL), a Title 1 school, in spring 2021. We hypothesize that participation will be associated with improved wellbeing and decreased stress, and will encourage youth to engage productively with their peer and local communities.

This research project is supported by the 2020 Joint Pilot for Arts Research (JPAR). This JPAR is co-sponsored by the Collaborative Arts Research Initiative (CARI), the Alabama Life Research Institute (ALRI), and the Office for Research and Economic Development (ORED) and supports proposals that integrate the arts with bio-psychosocial investigations of the human condition.


Courtney Helfrecht, Assistant Professor, Anthropology;

Stephanie McClure, Assistant Professor, Anthropology;

Alexis Davis-Hazell, Assistant Professor, Music;

Alvon Reed, Assistant Professor, Theatre and Dance