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Jacksonville Arts Groups Recognized By PNC Bank

Ryan Benk
Jacksonville Cultural Council members and local artists at the Arts Alive ceremony.

Five arts nonprofits in Jacksonville will be working with some extra money moving forward after the PNC Foundation selected them for its Arts Alive grant program Thursday morning at the Jessie Ball Dupont Center.

The winning endeavors include the Dance Theatre Bridge Project, Jacksonville Kids Mural Project, and Eastside Arts.

Bradley Akers is artistic director for the Players by the Sea Theater, which won for its work with rapper Mal Jones, updating old English plays for the modern era.

“We’re doing a program called Shake Up Shakespeare and what we will do is bring Shakespeare analysis into a contemporary realm for schools and the Boys and Girls Club and various organizations like that to help students engage with Shakespeare other than just reading it on the page,” he said.

Another theater company, Darryl Rueben Hall’s Stage Aurora, is also getting a nod for its work focusing on the black community.

"I want to scream and jump out of my body,” Hall said.

He said after a trying year when the theater company lost its longtime performance space at the Gateway Town Center, it’s nice to be recognized.

“It’s more about the strength that Stage Aurora has persevered and how we’ve grown. Now it’s like you can throw a hurricane at us, granted Matthew, and we’re still standing,” he said.

Stage Aurora is prepping for its next musical at the Ritz Theatre: “Dream Girls.” Hall said the PNC grant will subsidize tickets and transportation to his shows for low-income kids. The Arts Alive program is awarding $75,000 total to the five Jacksonville organizations this year.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.