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Student artist reaches out to serve the community

May 11, 2010

Xanthia Walker, who is receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in youth theatre from the Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film, has distinguished herself not only academically, but by her commitment to meeting the needs of the community. She has been a teaching artist at the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in Phoenix and the El Nido Family Centers in California as well as for Free Arts Arizona.

Walker took the initiative to make connections to Black Canyon School in the Arizona Juvenile Corrections Program. There, she works with a group of young, incarcerated women creating a theatre piece featuring the voices and the poems of the young women focusing on pro-social behaviors and body image.

She has a sophisticated understanding of social justice, recognizing the complex issues involved, according to Linda Essig, director of theatre and film.

“Walker works with youth to extend their understandings of self and other while focusing on teaching the young people positive choice-making and democratic dialogue,” says Essig.

Walker’s dedication to working with marginalized communities as a community-based artist was recognized early by the School of Theatre and Film faculty. She was chosen to work directly with assistant professor Stephani Woodson as an artist/facilitator in the Place: Vision & Voice program.

“I have been nothing but impressed with her commitment and enthusiasm to working with this difficult population,” Woodson writes of Walker. “She handles herself with aplomb no matter what event occurs, from youth who need hospitalization to youth who need to be asked to leave because they are not sober. The center manager shared with me privately that he has been quite impressed with her artistic facilitation and her leadership-through-example.”

Walker is a dedicated artist, teacher and scholar who represents the core values of the School of Theatre and Film: collaboration, collegiality, creativity and, most especially, community.