Performing arts and people of color

Black Action Society and SRUOIE hosted panel discussion highlighting artists of color


The Black Action Society and the Office for Inclusive Excellence held a panel titled “The Black Aesthetic: Performance Through a Different Lens” focused on the contributions of people of color to the performing arts. 

This event was a part of the Black Action Society’s Black Arts festival. Three separate events will be held to give the SRU community an opportunity to get involved in conversations and learn about Black art.  

The three panelists that spoke during the event included Cat Burton, Corey Cook and Carla HughesDuring the event, the panelists spoke on topics such as defining art, representation and the meaning behind African American art, funding related to arts, the panelists greatest successes and proudest moments, advice for upcoming artists, opportunities and forms of expression in terms of art. 

Each of the panelists have a focused area of art and work with the public on expressing art in different ways. 

Carla Hughes is currently the director of dance at Collegiate Academy High School in Erie, Pennsylvania. Hughes performs for traditional theatrical plays and musicals but her primary mode of expressing art is through dance.

Cat Burton is a SRU alumni and collegiate academy. Burton was previously the facilities manager at August Wilson Art and American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh but has recently chosen to attend graduate school. Her primary modes of art are creative direction and fashion, although she was a dancer in the past.

Corey Cook founded a non-profit music and mentoring program called Life Through Music where he teaches intercity youth how to play instruments and music production. His preferred mode of art is music, although he is photographer and videographer as well.  

Art can be expressed through a variety of forms. This includes visual art such as photography, videography, drawings, paintings or other types of design. Musical art includes dancing, singing, playing instruments, song writing and more. Hughes spoke on her definition of art. 

“Art is a way for people to express what they are feeling, to share some of the things that motivate them that could potentially move us,” said Hughes. “I think typically art is what anyone feels defines beauty, expresses emotion and provokes thought.” 

Artists face challenges when it comes to expressing their work. One way that the panelists spoke on immensely was the lack of funding as being a roadblock at times.

The panelists discussed the difficulties they have had finding and receiving grants to advance black arts. Although there are grants that exist, it is difficult to find them. Burton created her own organization called Create Art Together (CAT), where she helps represent and uplift artists and their voices.

She helps artists with ideas, the next steps to take and funding opportunities. She uses her organization to uplift artists and connect them with other organizations.  

For those students at SRU who are up and coming in the arts, the panelists shared some advice on consistency, confidence and surrounding yourself with others who have similar goals. Cook spoke on what advice he would share to up and coming artists. 

“Consistency is extremely important,” said Cook. “Staying consistent and focused on doing the work, proving that I can do the work, showing that I could do the work and that I can do the work. As a musician or an up-and-coming musician, I would tell them to not only focus on learning the musical part of it or whatever it is that your craft involves, but also learn the business side of it and what can help you take it to the next level.” 

Burton also gave her perspective as an SRU alumni. 

“When I was at Slippery Rock, I was a part of a lot of organizations and within those I was able to express myself and was able to find like-minded individuals to support me,” said Burton. “I would just say that getting involved on campus is actually a very important part of the experience.” 

Provided are links tconnect with any of the panelists or their organizations. 

Corey Cook: Instagram @MistalamontFacebook: @CoreyCook,   

Cat Burton: Instagram and @cat_burton, 

Carla Hughes: Facebook: @CarlaHughes@Lifethrudance, SheWork Dance Theatre 

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Morgan is an integrated marketing communication major. This is her second semester on The Rocket staff as assistant campus life editor. Previously, she was part of the Women’s Lacrosse team at SRU for two years and was an editor for her high school yearbook sophomore to senior year. After graduation, she hopes to work on a marketing team in the DMV area. Outside of The Rocket, Morgan is also on staff for the athletic communication department.


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