AGE is a Gift – Connie Carley

AGE is a Gift
Spotlight on Connie Carley

AGE is excited to feature Connie Carley, co-founder of PassinArt. Connie spent her youth in Seattle at a time of utmost hardship. Her family was one of three that integrated North Seattle in the midst of the civil rights movements. Life was dangerous, and she was threatened everyday as the neighborhood integrated.  During this time, Connie was approached by her drama teacher and invited to be in her first performance.  Her love for the arts grew and this is where she would find her voice.

Connie came to Oregon with the hopes of teaching, but there was a job freeze.  She met a couple of fellow educators and artists who would soon become the co-founders of PassinArt.

The creation of PassinArt came from a need to see more diverse representation on stage and to support and invest in the Black artist community. “We were in a community where we could see a couple of black artists and artists of color on stage, but there were very few. We wanted to see more representation on stages, but we also recognized that there weren’t enough roles and opportunities for these artists in the first place.  It wasn’t just about creating a theatre company, it was about the investment in artists and passing down our stories,” noted Connie.

In the early 80’s, Connie and her fellow co-founders started a nonprofit theatre. At the core of PassinArt’s mission was increasing the visibility of Black experienced and emerging artists, raising the professionalism of these artists by paying them for their work, and giving opportunities to female playwrights and artists. Audience development was focused on bringing in non-theatre goers, making everyone feel a sense of belonging, and allowing people to bring their traditions into the PassinArt space.

Connie sees art as a powerful medium for education.  She has worked tirelessly to develop programming for kids.  “We want to pass on our stories, our art, our history, and our culture to the next generation,” remarked Connie. She believes that art is an integral part of everything we do. It should not be the first thing cut from budgets.  Connie sees art as social justice. Youth must have access to the arts as they begin to become socially aware and claim their voice. Connie asks, “How do we advocate and fight for those [art] opportunities where our kids’ voices can and will be heard around social justice issues?”

When asked how age has impacted her, Connie said, “Time has given me perspective and appreciation for what I have learned through many challenges. Even now I wonder, how do we continue to pass it on?”  We are grateful to Connie Carley for a lifetime of dedication to the arts, education, and social justice.