Kerry Washington to celebs joining arts initiative: ‘You have no idea the joy’

Actress Kerry Washington last January with the Savoy Players, dancers comprised of boys and girls at at Savoy Elementary School. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Actress Kerry Washington last January with the Savoy Players, dancers comprised of boys and girls at at Savoy Elementary School. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Actress Kerry Washington, who has adopted a school in Anacostia as part of the White House’s “Turnaround Arts” program, welcomed other artists joining the program with a happy warning. “They have no idea the joy they are about to experience,” she said Tuesday in a media conference call.

Washington prepared the recruits — who include music icon Elton John, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, actor Tim Robbins, singer Josh Groban and actress Rashida Jones — by saying that they won’t just be teaching the kids they work with; they’ll be learning plenty themselves. Washington was effusive about her interactions with the students and parents (both in-person and over Skype) at Anacostia’s Savoy Elementary School.

The “Scandal” star’s advice to her fellow artists? “Share your passion — and show up to learn as much as you are to give.”

The initiative, led by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and aimed at turning around poor-performing schools through arts education, is expanding from eight pilot schools to 35, organizers announced Tuesday.

Other celebs adopting schools include Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, singer/songwriter Clarence Greenwood (a.k.a. Citizen Cope), actor/musician Doc Shaw, actress Elizabeth Banks, singer/songwriter Jason Mraz, “Modern Family,” actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the Silk Road Ensemble, and musician Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty).

Washington said the initiative has made a difference in the school, helping to curb disciplinary problems and increase academic engagement. “I’ve seen the transformation of a community, not just a classroom,” she said.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Emily Heil · May 20