First Lady Michelle Obama Honors The Artists Collective

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA HONORS The Artists Collective For Its “Training Program In The Arts And Culture Of The African Diaspora”

Local program one of 15 nationwide recognized for positive youth outcomes

through engagement in the arts and humanities

Hartford,CT – For its effectiveness in developing creativity and fostering academic success by engaging young people in the arts and humanities, The Artists Collective of  Hartford, CT was recognized with a prestigious national award by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, October 20.

Chosen from a pool of more than 400 nominations and 50 finalists, The Artists Collective’s program, “Training in the Arts and Culture of the African Diaspora,”   was one of 15 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country to receive the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly, the Coming Up Taller Award), the highest honor such programs can receive in the United States. The awards are administered by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

The Artists Collective was recognized by Mrs. Obama for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to improve academic achievement, encourage admissions to higher education, and/or advanced training programs, promote self  – discipline, teamwork, and leadership skills; and foster respect/responsibility  for self and others.

Founded in 1970 by internationally renowned alto saxophonist, composer and  educator Jackie McLean, with his wife Dollie McLean, the Artists Collective. was created to  preserve and perpetuate the art and culture of the African Diaspora  Over the past 40 years, the organization has engaged more than 50,000 young people in dance, music, drama visual arts, martial arts. and Skills for living training programs.

Accepting the award from Mrs. Obama on behalf of Artists Collective was Lauren Horn, a 14-year-old participant in the program since the age of three, who was accompanied to the White House by Founding Executive Director Dollie McLean

“Standing with the First Lady of the United States in the White House and accepting this award was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget,” said Lauren . “It showed me that the power of the arts and humanities to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued. Having dance in my life helped me to express myself and do well in school.”

Joining Mrs. Obama and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in recognizing the impact of “Training in the Arts and Culture of the African Diaspora” in transforming the lives of young people and our community were a number of its long-time partners and supporters, including: Hartford Public Schools, Connecticut Department of Children and Families, Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, Hartt School, University of Hartford, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Neighborhood Studios, Greater Hartford Arts Council.

“By engaging and inspiring young people, the Artists Collective is giving them not just the vision but the skills to build a new and better life for themselves and their families, and for our community,” said  Senator Joseph I. Lieberman and Congressman John B. Larson .  “These young people are learning how to use creative thinking to work as a team, to solve problems and to express themselves constructively. These are exactly the kinds of skills we want them to have to be able to succeed in school, in work and in life, ” said State Senator Eric Coleman, State Representative Marie Kirkley-Bey, Karen J. Senich Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, and Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra.

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, The Artists Collective will also receive $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

“We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but in our community, as well,” said Founding Executive Director Dollie McLean for the Artists Collective.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth. The awards recognize and support outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline and academic success, with demonstrable results. They also provide safe harbors after school, on weekends and evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings. For more information, visit

Founded in 1970 by world renowned alto saxophonist, composer, educator, and community activist Jackie McLean, his wife, actress, dancer, administrator Dollie McLean, as well as co-founders and Hartford artists, bassist, Paul Brown, visual artist, Ionis Martin, and dancer Cheryl Smith, now Associate Director, the Artists Collective is the only  organization in Connecticut dedicated to the art and culture of the African Diaspora.  Annually, through its interdisciplinary arts training programs and professional concerts, dance/theater productions, and visual arts exhibits, the Artists Collective serves upward of 15,000 children, youth, and adults from Hartford and Greater Hartford . The majority are youth from the African–American and Caribbean communities, as well as low-income communities nearby. Located in one of Hartford’s poorest, most violence-ridden neighborhoods, the Artists Collective has been a catalyst and anchor for $150 million of economic development since its new facility was completed in 1999. The organization receives support from national and local foundations and corporations, such as the JazzNet Endowment, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Surdna Foundation, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Bank of America, and the Travelers, Prudential, and Metlife Foundations. In addition, the Artists Collective is supported by federal, state, and city agencies, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Department of Justice, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, and City of Hartford    For more information about the Artists Collective, please visit

Dollie McLean and her students accept their award from First Lady Michelle Obama
Dollie McLean and her students accept their award from First Lady Michelle Obama