After growing up at Leeds, student gives back with Youth Advisory Board
Published 10:55 am Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Ellie Miller has grown up in the Leeds Center for the Arts.
She’s one of the many who volunteer to keep the nine-decade-old theater running, but she’s also working with the next generation as an advisor with the Leeds’ Youth Advisory Board.
Miller, a 22-year-old Winchester native entering her final semester at the University of Kentucky, isn’t too far removed from those she’s advising.
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“My passion is for the youth of the community,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in the youth. The arts can change lives and provide new opportunities for lots of people.”
The youth advisory board is not just about performances at Leeds.
“It’s a leadership board that is arts focused,” she said. “It’s more than just learning about theater and the arts. It’s about teaching them to have a voice and being leaders in the community.”
Miller, who also choreographs performances at Leeds, said she started the Youth Advisory Board a year ago.
“It was an idea I came up with,” she said. “When I was in high school, there weren’t a lot of options like that for me. I wanted to provide that” for future students.
The board consists of 12 students, who applied for a seat for one year. Miller said those currently on the board, who haven’t graduated, will reapply for their seat in September.
The board meets every other week. Usually, there is a speaker, though not exclusively from the performing arts reals, she said. Sometimes the speaker is an artist. Other times a community leader or elected official. Once, they had a speaker talking about different personality types and how they work together, she said.
The board is also responsible for projects during its year. This year, they completed a portal project, where artists painted doors which were installed throughout downtown Winchester.
“We spent a lot of the first year establishing the structure of the board,” Miller said. “I’d like to see us do two projects and work more on community outreach.”
Part of it is opening their eyes to creative opportunities in the real world.
“My big thing is creating place-makers… that you can be creative in your community,” she said. “You can use your creative side in other ways. There’s lots of creative opportunities in their own communities.”
Working with the youth board isn’t Miller’s only involvement with Leeds. Her personal history runs deep, when she began dancing ballet at age 3 as one of Farah Tyree’s students.
“Coming back here, I’ve always had a heart for this place,” she said.
Earlier this year, Leeds emerged from another restoration, one which closed the theater for four months.
“Thanks to our gracious donors and patrons, we’ve just flourished,” Miller said. “I think we’re more than a venue. We’re a true community theater. We don’t just produce shows. We try to involve all aspects of the community and try to make a difference.”