Block party in Milwaukee-Sunnyside plaza parking lot on Aug. 12 to benefit Teen Cohort Program of Downstage Arts
by BRIAN NADIG
A back-to-school block party in support of an arts program that helps students get into college will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, in the plaza parking lot at the southwest corner of Milwaukee and Sunnyside avenues in Jefferson Park.
The block party will include free entertainment and more than 20 local businesses.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Teen Cohort Program of the nonprofit Downstage Arts, whose co-founder founder Lindsay Cummings operates the Chicago Music and Acting Academy at 4448 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the plaza. The other founders of Downstage Arts are Isabella Coelho and Tanner Bradshaw.
The program provides guidance to high school juniors and seniors as they apply to performing arts colleges, helping them to prepare for their audition. Program participants get advice from professional actors and singers and help with the scholarship application process.
“It’s basically everything we would have wanted to have known when we were applying to school,” said Cummings, who holds bachelor’s degrees in vocal performance and theater from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and master’s degrees in musical theater and opera performance from Arizona State University. She went on to perform on television and in musicals but has spent the last seven years teaching, currently at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
The free cohort program, which was founded in 2020, includes weekly meetings, and the yearly session concludes with a showcase of the students’ talents. The recent showcase was hosted by Broadway star Desi Oakley.
“We’ve had 12 kids in the program so far, and all have gone on to college,” Cummings said. Those colleges include New York University, University of Southern California, Columbia University and the Manhattan School of Music, she said.
The block party will include performances by participants in the Teen Cohort Program and students from the Chicago Music and Acting Academy.
There also will be a variety of local merchants, free ice cream and, through the the offices of state Senator Robert Martwick (D-10) and state Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19), school backpacks from the Cradles to Crayons program and at-home COVID-19 testing kits from the state Department of Public Health will be given away.
In addition, on Aug. 12, the Moonflower Bar, 4359 N. Milwaukee Ave., will be donating a portion of its carryout orders to the program, and Fry the Coop, 4300 N. Milwaukee Ave., will be providing chicken sandwiches at the block party.
Admission to the block party is free but donations for the program are encouraged, either at the event or online afterwards. For those not attending, donations can be made at www.downstagearts.org