For artists longing to have their creativity funneled into something productive and meaningful, The Community Education Center, located at 3500 Lancaster Ave., provides the space, knowledge and resources needed to accomplish their goals of performing.
Led by Executive Director Terri Shockley, the Community Education Center, or CEC as it is known in Powelton Village and beyond, opens its doors to all who wish to participate in the arts in Philadelphia.
The center isn’t like anything found in any of the other parts of the city. It is unique because it teaches a multitude of different dance and art forms, especially dance.
“You won’t find the same model in a traditional dance studio setting. We really partner with artists to present classes to the community,” Shockley said.
The CEC may be open to all those who wish to partake, however there are some classes taught there which require at least some knowledge or level of expertise to be eligible.
“There’s someone who is teaching flamenco here. And there you can’t go into that class until you at least learn the basics. There’s someone teaching Tai Chi, and you really can’t take that class at all unless you know the form because the teacher has been teaching basically the same group for many years,” Shockley said.
Another aspect of the CEC making it so unique is the consistency between teachers and their classes. The artists who teach the different classes stay for long periods of time.
“This is one of the places where the instructor can really make a good living if together we bring in good numbers. Generally, when someone has a class here, they teach here for many years,” Shockley said.
The classes are just one aspect of how the CEC serves the arts community. There are also many different shows that take place in the building’s theatre. The CEC puts on seven shows per year which consist of its own students, and up to another 12 shows per year where other organizations use the CEC’s theatre to allow anyone to view their work.
One of these shows was performed by the Etc. Performance Series on April 8 and 9. Directed by Charles Tyson Jr., the show contained modern, interpretive, traditional Indian and hip-hop dance acts.
For the different dance companies and performance series using the theater to display their work, the CEC is one of only a few places citywide where performing is possible.
“If you try to rent a theater and do a production, it can cost thousands of dollars. That’s why you don’t see a lot of people doing their own thing. Venues like this where you can share a venue is usually where we go,” Tyson Jr. said.
This type of low-cost, accessible venue allows for shows to be performed by people of all skill levels giving people a chance to perform who otherwise would not have the opportunity.
“There’s not a lot of opportunities for performing artists to get their work on a stage in front of an audience. I just enjoy the fact that anyone who has a voice that feels they need to be heard has a space in here,” Tyson Jr. said.
One of the goals of the CEC is to promote a sense of family and community within those participating in the art services the CEC provides.
“In the classes there is very much a community or family feel even. There will be children and parents dancing and drumming, and a number of children running around the building,” Shockley said.
“It’s a cultural hub. It is. A lot of different kinds of people come here for a lot of different reasons. Pretty much everyone is represented here,” Tyson Jr. said.
From the dance classes to the performances, the space and opportunities the CEC offers creates a sense of community not only among those who perform and learn here, but among those who live in the surrounding community who view the work.