About 1.5 million children have parents who are incarcerated, and these kids are six times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. That's why the Girl Scouts have implemented Troop 1500, a group comprised of girls whose mothers are locked up. The troop helps at-risk girls deal with having their mothers in jail or prison and work toward breaking the cycle of crime within families.
Filmmakers Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein documented the project by capturing the moments when a group of girls met with their mothers in a Texas prison and asked challenging questions. Emotional to say the least, Troop 1500 reveals that "the primary victims of all this societal ignorance are the kids," Spiro says.
Two years ago, the filmmakers volunteered with Troop 1500, which was made up of girls ages 6 through 17.
"We trained the girls in media production, and the girls made their own films. The formality of the interview process allowed the girls to ask questions of their moms that they had never asked before," Spiro said
The end result is a glaringly realistic look at how families attempt to heal after tragedy, a difficult on-camera task for both the mothers and daughters.
"There is a transformation happening on-screen that is therapeutic and liberating," Spiro said. A difficult ethical balancing act the filmmakers performed was not letting their close, personal relationships with the moms get in the way creating an honest depiction of their lives.
The cost is $7.50 for general admission and $4.75 for students and seniors. --A.L.
Four hundred years ago, African slaves in Brazil learned how to fight by disguising martial arts as dance, one theory says. The Brazilian government looked down on Capoeira back then, but Capoeira is now a national sport, an influence on U.S. pop culture and an art form that is flourishing all over the world. It is a Brazilian form of martial arts that encompasses aerobic and dance elements.
This weekend the UA's Capoeira Club will showcase its talent in the annual Capoeira Martial Arts Festival. Bringing in Capoeira masters from across the United States and Brazil, the event will feature martial arts performances and musical entertainment including a performance by the band Sambalance.
"Putting on the event is the highlight of our year, because we get to invite masters from across the country to share their skills with us," says Stephen Borota, a member of the Capoeira club.
Although new to the United States compared to its long existence in Brazil, Capoeira has become one of the most popular martial art forms in the country. It has had a large influence on hip-hop music by giving birth to break dancing and influencing the dance of contemporary artists.
"It has survived because people who practice it love it and they want to see it grow further," Borota said. Capoeira not only promotes artistic expression, but also encourages respect for and understanding of foreign cultures.
The performance is part of a larger four-day event with workshops, a graduation ceremony for those who have been training in the art, and Capoeira games open to all comers.
Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for children ages 8 to 12, and free for children under 7. --A.L.
You might say musician Gabrielle Pietrangelo has a lot of sisters--nine, in fact. The sisters are not related, but instead form the 10-member a cappella ensemble, The Old Soul Sisters.
As director of the ensemble, Pietrangelo explains, "This group came out of the Old Soul Singers which started about three years ago. This is its new incarnation. Some of the (members) are from the original group, and there are some new people. We've been singing together eight months under the new name. ... All of us work and live in the community."
The April 24 performance marks the group's first public performance under the new name. Pietrangelo will open the show by singing and playing guitar. The ensemble will perform folk music, gospel, spirituals and traditional music from such locales as Africa and Bulgaria. Guest artist Christopher Stevens will read a poem by Hafiz as the ensemble accompanies him.
Pietrangelo's main love is folk music. "We specialize in authentic folk music from around the world. I love the folk tradition and hearing the stories of how people get through things," she says.
But there's also a spiritual theme to the ensemble's music. "The songs we sing are about freedom and relying on a higher power. ... Our main flavor is, we take spirituals and do our own arrangements," says Pietrangelo. Through their creations and music, the Sisters "celebrate the human spirit."
The event costs $5. There will be a limited amount of chair seating with plenty of spots open on the floor. Pietrangelo suggests bringing a pillow to be comfortable. --I.M.
Sitting above the Old Fort Lowell neighborhood, San Pedro Chapel has seen many incarnations. Originally built in the early 1900s, the chapel has been a parish church, an art gallery and now a community center. Members of the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association are in the process of raising money to restore the old chapel. They formed the Fort Lowell Art Group to raise funds for the restoration.
"Our first show was in May 2004," says Art Group member Cate Varley. "It was such a raging success, we thought we should have a show every year. It's to promote artists in Tucson and introduce people to the neighborhood by bringing in something that's different."
This year, the group invited local artist Jon Forest Lightfoot to exhibit his new works. Lightfoot's works will be available for purchase. "The artist gets a portion of the proceeds, and the (remainder) goes to the restoration," says Varley.
According to the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, Lightfoot lived in the neighborhood as a boy. After studying art and living in New York and London, Lightfoot returned to Tucson in 1972.
Lightfoot's works include "large paintings with religious themes and ... signature portraits of Hopi, Navajo, Zuni and native Mexicans. ... His work has been shown widely across the American West and in colonial cities of Mexico."
The free exhibition will include a "Meet the Artist Fiesta" on Friday, April 22. Mariachi music and light refreshments will be offered. --I.M.