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Rhythmix Cultural Works Fosters Awareness Through Local Art Appreciation and Diversity

By Kelly Church

Located in Alameda, Calif, Rhythmix Cultural Works is an artist-run nonprofit community arts center that presents world music, jazz, classical music, dance, visual art exhibitions, comedy, family programming and popular community events, such as themed bingo nights. Established in 1999 as an umbrella organization for providing cultural arts education in schools, founder and artistic director Janet Koike became inspired to create a permanent home for the arts in Alameda after the group's early success. She spent nearly five years renovating a former industrial warehouse on the city's Waterfront Trail, which finally opened in 2007 to great fanfare. Nearly a decade on, free youth arts education is still a cornerstone of Rhythmix's mission, and the organization's home on Blanding Avenue has become a hub for arts and culture on the island and throughout the East Bay.

"Rhythmix believes that exposure to the arts can be a transformative experience and a catalyst for learning about cultural differences," says Executive Director Tina Blaine. "Through our diverse programming, we seek to promote cultural awareness, encourage participation in the arts, support artists in the presentation of their work, and be a resource for community gatherings and events."

Working with the Alameda and Oakland unified school districts, as well as after-school programs targeting underserved youth, Rhythmix presents free educational music and dance assemblies to thousands of schoolchildren each year through its Performance, Art & Learning (PAL) Program. "It is through this program that many youth in the area experience world cultures for the first time," Blaine says. "About one-quarter of students in Alameda are English language learners, and for these students especially, PAL empowers them to feel proud of their own culture and to share that pride with their fellow classmates."

In addition to PAL, Rhythmix produces and presents dozens of events annually, attracting upwards of 10,000 visitors. One of their biggest events each year is Wine, Women & Song, a festival celebrating wine, music and art in the name of raising money and awareness for PAL. They also host Café Flamenco, a bimonthly show featuring traditional Spanish arts and dance, as well as regular children's programming such as the Amazing Bubble Show, magic and circus acts. There are also weekly classes year-round in subjects ranging from taekwondo to Zumba to Cuban salsa, belly dancing and world percussion.

"We truly have something for everyone, and we want everyone to feel welcome here," Blaine says. "We're more than just a community space, we're a place where people can discover things about themselves and the world, all with a sense of fun and adventure."

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