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Why the Name Blackbird?

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night, 
Take these broken wings and learn to fly. 
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

One thing I love about music is the crazy ability of a songwriter to take a string of words and notes and make something compelling and beautiful out of them.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that was supportive of musical endeavors and so  I’ve always felt connected to music on a personal level.

When I was a teenager my father introduced me to the music of the Beatles and I was instantly hooked.  During my college years the words to Paul McCartney’s song “Blackbird” became a personal anthem of sorts as I struggled to let go of the things of the past and move forward into my future.   As an eternal optimist, I loved the concept of broken things just waiting for the time to rise up and be whole.

When it came time for me to complete my undergraduate thesis with the UCA Honors College, I kept thinking back to a story titled Blackbird which I had written in one of my creative classes.  The autobiographical story was written in the form of a fairy tale and told of a girl who had to go back and visit the broken places of her past in order to find her way home. Rather than write a paper for my thesis, I decided to turn Blackbird into a full-blown production, using a variety of arts to tell the one story.  With the help of 40 other college students- from artists to dancers to actors, musicians, and filmmakers- we presented this narrative of hope and healing to a crowd of almost 500 people.

After the production was said and done, I kept coming back to the beauty of so many artists working together.  I thought of how the arts had been such an affirmative presence in my life, how my dance and music and poetry had been a positive format for me to express the frustrations and hurt that came with growing up.  As the years passed I couldn’t let go of these thoughts.  Even as a teenager I had envisioned a place where artists could join together for a common good and so I started to think what that could look like then and there for my community.  I saw all of these kids who were like me – full of passion and talent and promise, but with few opportunities and not always the funds to back it all up.

And so, just as I had done years earlier with my thesis, I started to pull together a group of artists for one common goal – to make quality arts opportunities readily available and affordable for our community.  We wanted to create a place of sound instruction, creative encouragement, and safe expression for artists of all kinds.  As we moved forward I thought what better name for a place like this than Blackbird. A place where artists of all ages can come- broken wings or not- and learn what it means for them to fly.  And thus… Blackbird Academy of Arts was born.

-By Blackbird Academy of Arts founder Jennie Strange