FIA Reflects on Turning 30 and Looks Forward to the Future

by Dwayne Estes

We have been Friends-in-Art for 30 years; time has gone by so quickly. When you get to be our age as an organization, you are going to experience some growing pains.  We are still healing from the great loss that was the passing of one of our beloved charter members, Janiece Petersen Kent.  Yet, in the spirit of Janiece we are moving forward.
As a special-interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, Friends-in-Art has quite a list of accomplishments. At national convention we present a showcase featuring the fine talent of greater ACB and other friends.  This year the showcase will be slightly reformatted.  We are reactivating the FIA chorus, which will open the Showcase singing “Magic To Do” from the musical “Pippin.”  This is a fun groove tune.  Look for a complete recording of the piece and your individual part on the FIA Showcase channel on YouTube. We also have a song just for the guys; don’t worry, women, you’re next year.  Again, the song “Go Ahead Charley” is on the FIA Showcase channel on YouTube.  Come sing with us!  Perform with people you know and meet other performers.  We will have a band and a sighted accompanist.  Bring your sheet music and we will see you at auditions. For the second act of the Showcase, we will feature three artists who are employed, living the dream and performing their art.  We want the world to know blind artists and performers are vital and out there making money presenting their art.
Friends-in-Art has given out some 15 scholarships, according to Dr. Harvey Miller, long-time chair of the FIA scholarship committee.  FIA has provided funds for several students and potential members to attend national convention.
Michael Mandel, Gordon Kent, and Wayne Pearcy helped advise Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. with configuring and installing a computer lab for the blind.  This lab is equipped with computers and the most up-to-date music software.  Blind students learn to use this equipment in a blind music technology class, part of their curriculum for graduation. Setting up this type of lab for other universities and assisting blind music students is one of FIA’s long-term goals. 
FIA is very excited to learn about the Theatre for the Blind in Los Angeles, Calif.  We have reached out to this impressive group and hope to have them with us next year at national convention.
Practitioners of other art forms are encouraged to join our organization. FIA can count several fine writers in our membership. These wordsmiths have been published and have won awards applying their craft.  We provide mentoring and support for everyone; we invite artists both amateur and professional, beginner and accomplished, to come and be a part of the greater blind arts community.
Finally, we want to develop relationships with you technological wizards out there. Your skills are so very important to our mission and society at large. It takes time to learn the efficient operation of current software and hardware, and this writer believes that this is an art in itself which we should support wholeheartedly.
Whether you just support and enjoy the arts, or you are an amateur or professional artist, you will find a home in Friends-in-Art. We encourage you to participate in our seminars and workshops, and attend our 2015 showcase in Dallas, Tex. If you’re a former member and want to rejoin us in our endeavors, or if you’re looking for a place to put your creativity to work, join Friends-in-Art. Who knows what the next 30 years will bring?