Together, the future only gets brighter

Taking Our Place Centerstage is an initiative through which the Ordway, in collaboration with communities of color in the Twin Cities, commits to a continuing partnership of creative programming, education, and entertainment for all.

In 2010, the Ordway and SoulTouch Productions launched Taking Our Place Centerstage (TOPC) to deepen relationships and explore the rich artistic traditions within the African and African American communities. Initial work was funded by The Saint Paul Foundation and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, which allowed for Ordway staff, in collaboration with Robin Hickman-Winfield of SoulTouch, to develop and implement a community access program designed to authentically engage African American communities.

Robin Hickman-Winfield and Maia Maiden speak at a pre-show event during From the Ground Up. Photo by Sherine Onukwuwe.
Artists in rehearsal for ROOTED: Special Edition, a part of From the Ground Up. Photo by Roosevelt Mansfield, courtesy of Digiemade Photography.
Tish Jones, Jason Noer (B-Boy J-Sun), and Rodney Hill from Rennie Harris Puremovement speak at a pre-show event during From the Ground Up. Photo by Jenea Rewertz-Targui.
Maria Isa speaks at a pre-show event. Photo by Sherine Onukwuwe.
Students appearing in the 2015 St. Paul Public Schools Honors Concert. Photo by Aaron Smith, courtesy of Smitty's Workshop.

Growth through partnerships

The partnership between Ordway and SoulTouch Productions has enabled the development of new and unique programming, including:

  • Annual cultural celebrations that engage leadership from communities of color working in collaboration with Ordway staff

  • Out-of-school programming for youth that engages young people as artists and creators, and inspires them to explore careers in performing arts

  • Programming that supports family involvement at live performances

A consistent thread throughout Taking Our Place Centerstage is the economic empowerment of businesses and organizations that are led by people of color, and the paid engagement of artists from racially and culturally diverse communities who not only share their artistic gifts, but who have a voice in the way their work is presented and contextualized.

Only the beginning

Originally a short-term program, Taking Our Place Centerstage has since grown into a multiyear commitment. The initiative created the foundation for the Ordway's diversity, equity, and inclusion work guided by Dr. Gordon Nakagawa. As a result and through ongoing organizational commitment, thousands have been engaged and impacted by the Ordway’s programming. From small group sessions to huge festivals, the Ordway reaches into the community with programs, ticket discounts, and artist interactions. Artists give workshops and master classes in a variety of community settings, community gatherings are organized to facilitate lasting partnerships with the Ordway, and cultural leaders stand as visions of possibilities for young people from through the Twin Cities metro and beyond.

In 2020, we celebrate 10 years of Taking Our Place Centerstage. In that time, more than 200,000 community members have been impacted by TOPC programs and performances.