A portion of Kate Goodvin's oil painting of Davonte Foster and DeAngelo McNeil of the Dream City was pictured at the Blank Honors Center Thursday, March 8, 2017. (Photo: David Scrivner/Iowa City Press-Citizen)
Art has traditionally been used as an avenue for self-expression. Through acting, singing, dancing, music, painting, and writing, individuals can reflect on their experiences, social realities, and fantasies.
At the Dream City, the Performing Arts Academy provides student youth throughout Iowa City the opportunity to explore and expand their imaginations using their creativity.
“This is an academy that focuses on giving youth the opportunity to share their gifts and talents in our community,” said Frederick Newell, the executive director and founder of the Dream City.
The academy, which was created in 2013, hosts nearly 60 students from several schools in Iowa City using a variety of programs.
Currently, the Dream City works with students at City High to produce a television show inspired by the lives of two students, Davonte Foster and Calvin Sandifer.
“We wanted to do a TV show so people could watch it, and see what happens in our real lives and where we’re from,” Davonte said. “A lot of the stuff that’s happening in the TV show is stuff that we saw growing up in the city of Chicago.”
The television show, “The New Era,” written by Davonte and Calvin, focuses on both the good and the bad of growing up in the inner city.
“People usually focus on the bad things when they see the city of Chicago either in movies or on TV,” Davonte said.
So he and Calvin look forward to showing people that “it’s not really all bad.”
The Dream City is in the process of organizing a fifth year birthday celebration which will feature student dancers, singers, and several articles of spoken word. The television show is also set to be on display for the occasion.
The Dream City has several other programs. Read & Dream, a recent addition to the academy, aims at helping students increase their reading speed, reading comprehension, and attention span.
Ordained to Praise and Set the Atmosphere were once a part of the Dream City Performing Arts Academy, but have since grown into their own organization.
The Iowa City Dream Divas, in partnership with the Dream City, have performed, through song and dance, at schools, churches, and parades throughout Johnson County.
“The Dream Divas are an organization that works with female youth,” said MeLissia Caston, a program assistant. “… We try to encourage them, we try to have mentoring programs, and we try to support them in any way that we can through schools and through the community.”
Along with the Performing Arts Academy, the Dream City also offers the Family Academy, providing social and emotional support to all families involved in the program; the Fatherhood Academy,which provides fathers with individual and group counseling to address parenting issues; and the Youth Leadership Academy, which works to find creative ways for male and female youth to respond to complex issues that may be troubling them.