In the seven years since Ashley
Hare ’07 graduated from Wesleyan, she has
worked as a freelance community-based artist for multiple companies throughout
the United States. In collaboration with arts organizations, she has
transformed youth programs into places for creative, artistic engagement and
personal development for all participants, regardless of ability, ethnicity, or
socioeconomic status. Building curricula around the needs of youth and their
communities, Ashley has taught the arts in shelters for the homeless, group
homes, rehabilitation facilities, juvenile detention centers, and public and
“Through theatre arts, youth learn how to identify and express emotions. They role-play high risk situations and learn how to collaborate with their peers. I have witnessed youth transform into openly creative, engaging, and communicative members of their communities,” Ashley said.
In January of this year, Ashley joined the Phoenix (Arizona) Office of Arts and Culture as arts education director developing programs for the city. Serving as a liaison and spokesperson for arts education, she will be assessing community and school programs and working with various organizations to expand opportunities for citizens to engage in the arts.
Ashley also volunteers as managing director for Rising Youth Theatre (RYT), a newly-formed professional theatre company that places youth alongside professional artists to create original plays relevant to the lives and experiences of young people. Working with family-focused social service organizations, RYT conducts story-sharing events for youth at multiple locations across the metro Phoenix area. Professional playwrights use these true stories to create original scripts.
“We believe that when youth participate in the creative process they become engaged, passionate citizens and their own advocates,” Ashley said. “By embodying the company’s core values in our community-engaged theatre practice, we intend to make the community we live in a stronger, more caring place.”
A Corn Scholar from Columbus, Georgia, Ashley was the first person in her family to attend college. She was an actor in high school and entered Wesleyan with intentions of becoming a professional actor. She says that although she enjoyed acting, it didn’t fulfill her completely and she found herself continuously searching for something more. While researching topics for her senior seminar, Ashley came across Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry, a book of words, skits, songs, and dance that deals with bigotry and other issues. According to the authors, Norma Bowles and Mark E. Rosenthal, “Cootie Shots is designed to teach children that they have a choice about the words they use and that they have the power to change the world through their words. This show celebrates diversity by presenting role models of different cultures, ethnicities, classes, genders, disabilities, sexual orientations, religions, ages, and appearance.” Ashley staged a performance of the work for Bibb County elementary schools and now says, “Seeing the way that theatre influenced the lives of those young people had me hooked. My senior project defined the rest of my life.”
Becoming more involved in the administrative and policy-making side of arts education, Ashley says her new position constantly challenges her to become a leading change-maker for the arts. “When I see one of my kids out of rehab or the shelter who is going to school now or has an apartment or who hasn’t been arrested in the past six months, or when one says to me, ‘Thanks for listening and letting me tell my story,’ those moments always remind me that the work I am doing is making a difference in how kids view themselves and their place in society.”