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Sarah Bellamy.

Penumbra Theatre to Become Penumbra Center for Racial Healing

More than a rebranding, the organization’s new focus is designed to better resource Black artists and drive social change.

ST. PAUL, MINN.: Penumbra Theatre has announced that the organization is evolving into the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. The legacy Black arts organization, founded in 1976, has as its core mission to nurture Black artists, promote racial equality, and inspire creativity resilience. Building upon its history, the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will launch new artistic offerings, equity training services, a wellness center, and expanded staff to support its new areas of focus.

“Penumbra is thriving and well positioned to evolve in a way that honors the history of the organization and manifests abundance and possibility,” said artistic director Sarah Bellamy in a statement. “We are uniquely equipped to help Minnesotans acknowledge and address the racial disparities within our state, while attending to the trauma sustained from weathering such conditions. We will center and resource Black people, learn from and support people of color who are not Black, and welcome and support white people interested in building resiliency and competency for racial equity work. Working across sectors with key partners, our arts-based efforts inform adaptive strategies that build capacity toward change. It is my hope that this healing place will be both a national beacon and a local balm. It is badly needed and we are ready.”

The Penumbra Center for Racial Healing has been in development since 2015. Bellamy has been testing programs that cultivate empathy and invite active participation with public conversations, screenings, community meals, and educational programming to engage patrons across Minnesota.

The organization’s shift will include the launch of an annual repertory festival featuring interdisciplinary new work. Programming will also expand to include additional mainstage shows, panel conversations, and educational programs throughout the year. Artists in residence will develop new work and resiliency strategies in response to what is on Penumbra’s stages.

The Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will also offer year-round racial equity work led by artists, including opportunities to learn about and address the enduring disparities facing the Black community. This programming will feature lectures, workshops, seminars, and a leadership training institute for individuals and cohorts.

The center’s wellness track will offer holistic and culturally specific healing services including meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage, and more. These offerings will be informed by a curriculum designed to “mitigate the stresses of living in a racially stratified society,” as a release put it.

The center hopes to fully transition to include these arts, equity, and wellness tracks in the next three years. To support these new areas of focus, Penumbra has begun a multimillion-dollar initiative to fund the program and business development and to engage community in the realization of the center. Patrons can support the evolution by becoming “Next Generation” members, which will also help to resource Black artists now. Members will receive special access to virtual readings and workshops, guided meditations and reflections to support healing, as well as news about the development of the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. Opportunities to participate in the planning process will be open to all community members through hosted listening circles.

“This moment in our nation’s history demands bold, decisive action to address the generations-old trauma of racism that continues to grip communities everywhere,” said Mayor Melvin Carter in a statement. “As an institution that has been serving our community for more than four decades, the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will be a beacon for all of us as we move through these uncertain times towards a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”

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