Tina Knowles And Richard Lawson Reveal How They Are Cultivating Black Artistry In LA
The couple sat down with Blavity to discuss their creative arts educational space, WACO Theater Center, and the impact they're driving in the community.
Tina Knowles-Lawson and Richard Lawson might be known for their famous children but the two are certainly driving impact in their own way by building a movement with the WACO Theater Center.
An acronym that stands for "where art can occur," the community-building, creative space was designed to help artists cultivate and showcase their talent. It is the realization of a dream the couple had before even finding love with each other.
“For me, it was a lifelong dream to have a place, a community center, where all forms of art could occur,” Knowles-Lawson told Blavity. “So when Richard and I reconnected, he had the same vision — more so geared toward the theater.”
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An accomplished actor, Lawson has spent decades using his talent and experiences to uplift young thespians. Now, WACO is an extension of that work.
“I’ve been a teacher for 40 years, so I’ve always been in the mode of teaching and building a school,” Lawson said. “It was really serendipitous that we had the same kind of dream, just slightly different. We just put this together and created this place, which shares both of our visions.”
WACO is located in the North Hollywood district of Los Angeles, which has a reputation for being the artsy part of town. The center has two flagship programs for middle schoolers in need of mentorship, Tina’s Angels and Richard’s Warriors. The children often go on field trips to broaden their interests, which include museums, red carpet events, Alvin Ailey performances and even Disneyland. As a couple, their aim was to create an empowering environment for youth, regardless of their preferred art form.
“The whole concept of the teaching is to pull things out, not to put anything in,” Lawson said. “The artists, themselves, they are the magic. Everybody’s so unique in their own way. It’s about bringing out their uniqueness. Everybody here is creating their own dream."
Tina has seen a transformation in some of their pupils. Some of them went from telling her they don’t like anything to displaying their talents in front of their parents and an audience.
“It was amazing. I cried because it was like seeing them come alive,” an emotional Knowles-Lawson said. “Some of them were so shy they couldn’t look you in the eye, and then they’re up there performing and their parents are here. That’s the best part of this place for me.”
Lawson knows WACO is breeding the artists who will define our culture for years to come.
In fact, he's currently directing a play titled "No Place To Be Somebody," which was originally written by playwright Charles Gordone who was the first African-American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play is centered around "a Civil Rights-era story about a black bar owner who tries to outsmart a white mobster syndicate," according to its description. It will be performed at the WACO Theater through March 9th.
“At the end of the day, it really is about moving the culture forward,” Lawson concluded.
WACO's annual Wearable Art Gala fundraiser is scheduled for June 1, and will be hosted by Tiffany Haddish.
Congrats to the Lawsons on the great and impactful work they're cultivating! They have our support, hands down.
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