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    Grants fund arts education, outreach in Memphis

    Associated Press - KnoxNews -

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A grant program that funds educational and outreach projects by arts groups all over Memphis intends to broaden arts education in the city over the next three years.

    In one project, a theater group is staging four productions of radio dramas from the 1930s and 1940s at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Another grant to the Tennessee Shakespeare Company will help make Shakespeare relevant to high school freshmen.

    The Commercial Appeal reports (http://bit.ly/Ua5iGQ) that 26 grants totaling $238,150 were presented last week by ArtsMemphis.

    During rehearsals for the production of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," a crew used a sheet of metal, a drum, a tin can and a whistle to create the sound of a time machine whistling through the air.

    "It is a production that wouldn't exist if not for a grant from ArtsMemphis," says Bob Arnold, executive director of Chatterbox Audio Theater, which is staging the productions, including Wells' classic "War of the Worlds."

    ArtsMemphis President and CEO Susan Schadt said the grants program will total $3.3 million for 2012-2013 and she will look at community input and other measurements to determine what projects to fund in the next two years.

    "We are basing the first year on merit," says Schadt.

    The Shakespeare project began as a pilot program at Germantown High School with the play "Romeo and Juliet," which turns the play into a discussion about family battles, peer pressure, prejudice and violence.

    Slade Kyle, resident artist and education manager for the Shakespeare company, said the Capulets and Montagues can be compared to gangs.

    "We're taking it off the page and putting it into their hearts, bodies and minds. It begins to become much more relatable to them," he says.

    They are getting $19,000 to expand the program into Bartlett, Kirby and Ridgeway high schools.

    ArtsMemphis Education & Outreach Program Director Barb Gelb said the variety of projects is part of a "collective impact effort of arts and culture organizations across the community."