Photo caption: Dr. Howard Harris, Founder of Peoples’ Family Workshop | Photo credit: Submitted by PFW
What do Kirk Whalum, Beyonce and Yolanda Adams have in common?
Besides being top music and entertainment industry artists who have reached the pinnacle of success in their respective fields, each walked through the doors of The Peoples’ Workshop in their formative years.
A Houston-based 501 (c) 3 arts educational corporation, the workshop is a showcase for talent across all artistic genres and provides an artistic development component that aims to groom artists for careers in the creative and fine arts while fostering personal growth and development.
Now known and doing business as ‘’The Peoples’ Family Workshop,” the organization returns to present its program in an even more exciting, and meaningful way, according to founder and president, Howard Harris, A.Mus.D.
The organization seeks to use the arts as a catalyst for community camaraderie, mentoring, cultural arts awareness, and fine arts appreciation and extends its reach into small towns and deprived municipal areas where arts programs are absent.
The program provides a platform for engaging in talent exhibitions, learning activities, creative projects, and professionally adjudicated competitions while serving to ensure that the talent of aspiring, gifted artists is wholly realized and fully expressed.
The Peoples’ Family Workshop is more than a talent show, “It’s a movement” toward a higher level of responsible excellence in artistry and creativity, says Harris.
Participants are encouraged to “raise the bar” in setting new standards for themselves–artistically, intellectually, financially, morally and socially.
“No longer can we wait to counteract the adverse effects of blatant vulgarity exemplified in much of the commercial arts entertainment media today. Much of it – from the music to the movies and beyond, serves to keep the human mind in the gutter,” says Harris.
An advocate for excellence in the arts, Harris believes that works of literary, visual and performing arts can take us beyond the images and thoughts of illicit sex, drug abuse, obscene language, violent acts and human inhumanity. An important side of arts utility is to stimulate our minds and nourish our lives aesthetically.
“Classic artists and their works ‘lie dead to many.’ This is especially true for youth. That is why PFW opens its program to all ages and genres of artistry. While originality will always be strongly encouraged, classical artists and their works will always be honored and remembered in our program. Shakespeare, Picasso, Beethoven, Martha Graham, Mahalia Jackson, Michael Jackson, Chick Chorea, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Robert Frost, John Biggers, Sidney Poitier, Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald, Leontyne Price, Dave Brubeck, Baba Olatunji and Sammy Davis, Jr. are just a few from the infinite list of all-time greats who set the standards to strive and build from,” says Howard.
A composer, author, full professor and Director Emeritus of Jazz Studies at Texas Southern University, and the only Houston composer of color to have had works performed by the Houston Symphony and other orchestras
in the U.S., Harris views arts engagement as essential to educational curricula for providing holistic human
“This notion is espoused in PFW’s program, because man’s condition is mirrored through the arts. Learning is deepened through it. Because the human spirit is central to it, man can confront reality more fully, through the arts,” says Harris.
Activities are presented on an ongoing basis around PFW’s Worldwide Arts Expo and Talent Competition. Competition winners and other qualified acts are showcased live and online around the world.
• Auditions captured on video and uploaded online to reach a global audience
• Interactive workshops to enhance and improve the performance and presentations of participants
• The “Mirror of Life” and “Sammy Awards,” the annual awards show, to showcase winning performances
• Performances for and in conjunction with other events
• Educational sessions on various genres of literary, visual and performing arts
• Charitable performances for the elderly and other special audiences and causes
• Special features on individual winners in the Worldwide Expo and Competition
• Presentations on a given theme or title for exercising creativity and imagination
• Creative works tying in the arts with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for the purpose of developing
social and emotional competencies—Self-awareness, Self-management, Social Awareness and Relationship skills
In summarizing PFW’s curriculum as an arts educational entity, Harris points to the common thought of an ever-growing pool of educators who share his sentiments regarding the importance and urgency of arts engagement. He cites a quote by Amelia C. Rosales, a noted educator, who spoke to this urgency in her speech, ‘Humanizing the Curriculum Through Culture and the Arts,’ saying, “…education, after all is, not only molding the individuals to be economically successful, but more important still is, making each person a total person, one who is not only a thinking person but also a feeling one.”
Harris’ perspective on the utility of the arts is reflected in the above ideas. Along with providing opportunities for exposure and development for striving artists, the broader aspect of purpose is accomplished by using the arts as an opportunity for creative collaboration, and a catalyst for wholesome camaraderie among people and peoples’ of the world today.
That’s the People’s Family Workshop for the Arts/The Peoples’ Workshop.
Above article featured in the Summer 2014 Print Issue of Empower Magazine.
Photos: Submitted by Peoples’ Family Workshop
The Peoples’ Family Workshop
Staff and Administrative Officers
Claude Robinson, Artistic Director
Joining forces with Harris as Technical Director for
the Peoples; Family Workshop, is Claude Robinson,
a former winner in the producer category with the
original Peoples’ Workshop, and an active music
educator in the Greater Houston area for 20-plus
Dwight J. Baxter, Artistic Director
Dwight Baxter has been passionate about the
performing arts since the age of eight. He was born
in Houston, Texas, Educated at Purchase College of
S.U.N.Y in New York, trained at Pasty Swayze’s School
of Dance and the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Clerical Supervisor and LaPorte Talent Coordinator
Website Managing Consultant
Executive Board Steering Committee
Advisory Board Committee
Jonathan Carrington Dee Allen
George Thomas Alma Brown
Bobbie Blackwell Eugene Harris
Talent Adjudication Coordination
Leamon Green, visual arts
Joan Hubert, performing arts (voice)
Dianne Jemison-Pollard, performing arts (theatre)
Shirley Moore, literary