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Urban Community Arts Network (UCAN), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and sustaining the local Hip-Hop scene through education and live music events locally, is reaching out to the Madison-area community to help them raise funds for their programming.

“Things are going pretty well so far with this fundraiser. We weren’t really sure what to expect,” Urban Community Arts Network (UCAN) President Karen Reece tells Madison365. “This is our first time doing a campaign like this with the general public. We’re happy with the response so far.”

UCAN’s mission is to empower and unify youth and adults in the Madison area using urban arts, specifically Hip-Hop. They hope to raise $5,000 in their online fundraising campaign for funds that will support its educational and professional development programs for urban artists.

Black Hawk Middle School students learn about Hip-Hop history and culture during an all-school assembly with UCAN’s ShaH Evans and DJ Pain 1.

“We’ve been in existence for about 7 years and we have funded our programs mainly through grants and support from local businesses but we are beginning to see the need for more sustainable funding,” Reece says. “Also, since we are a community organization, we wanted to make sure that the community was involved in what we are doing so we decided to make an appeal to the general community.”

Reece says that the fundraising money will support professional opportunity-type programs citing the program “Academic Rap Up,” in particular, at Blackhawk Middle School. “It’s a program where we bring in local rappers to do residencies in the school to work with kids to help write rhymes,” Reece says of the program that is now in its third year.

Teaching artists serve brief residencies in the school and work with students to solidify concepts in the science classroom. Adult artists, who benefit from this professional development opportunity, mentor young learners, who benefit from adding an art form to their educational tool box.

“The kids are using the art to solidify the educational material and the adults have the benefit of having these other opportunities to explore and to enhance their artistic careers in ways that are more than just about performance,” Reece says.

UCAN employs a two-generational approach to many of its programs with a long-term goal of reducing economic racial disparities in Madison.

“One of our main goals at UCAN is to really build the urban arts community and in order to do that, we need to build bridges and pipelines between older generations and younger generations,” Reece says. “We have people with a lot of experience in the community and they can teach the younger generations what their elders once taught them. The younger people will be more prepared in society and the older people will really understand the benefit of mentorship and how they are working to benefit the next generation.

Sixth-graders work on their rap flow with artist-in-residence Marquese “DJ Sixteen” Ford.

“We really want to create this infrastructure between youth and adults so they can learn how to support each other,” she adds.

Funds raised through the UCAN online fundraiser will go towards programs and towards their annual conference titled “Level Up” Music Conference, the Midwest’s largest urban music conference. “It’s for music industry professionals locally, regionally, and nationally to help teach artists about the business-end of the music industry. They can use that information to build a career as an artist or for a career in marketing or public relations or tech.”

Reece says that she’s hoping to raise the money by the end of the year. She’s excited to see how the community has responded so far.

“It makes me feel great. It’s really amazing, especially when you talk about hip-hop and urban arts the vibe we get from Madison is that people aren’t really supporting it, people are concerned about safety issues, people don’t really understand the value of the art,” Reece says. “So, to see people responding by sharing, donating, and commenting on our campaign … that’s really amazing to me. That’s really special. It feels great to see that people are supporting the programming we do.”

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.

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