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Community Partner Stories: Dr. Evelyn Collins


For a number of years now, The Performing Arts Center has watched with admiration as the wonderful work of Dr. Evelyn Collins and her extraordinarily talented students and staff have developed a powerful program of performing and visual arts teaching, and social and emotional support, for students in the Mount Vernon community.

We are proud to feature Dr. Collins in our Community Partners series, as both a great friend to The PAC and an inspiring community partner. Moreover, we’d like to take this opportunity to recognize Mount Vernon City School District Board’s recent renaming of the Performing and Visual Arts Magnet School, a school Dr. Collins created, as The Denzel Washington School of the Arts.

Teacher, mentor, administrator and inspiring advocate for the arts, we look forward to sharing our visiting artists with Dr. Collins and the students of The Denzel Washington School of the Arts for many years to come. Please give us a brief description of your organization’s mission and goals: To prepare students for successful entry into colleges and conservatories.

Describe in a few lines what you do and what your typical day looks like: I am founding principal of the Denzel Washington School of the Arts (formerly the Performing and Visual Arts Magnet School). Our school is a secondary school serving creative students in grade 6-12. A typical day for me as the Principal includes observing teachers in instruction, meeting with students in grade meetings, rehearsing showcases and productions, meeting with District administrator and cultural and higher education partners, and meeting with parents.

What quote do you live by? Or, what/who inspires you the most and why? “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle I am inspired by Peggy Cooper Cafritz (founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts). She created a performing arts high school for children in DC and it is one of the premiere arts schools in the country.

Have you ever been an artist or performer? I am an actor and director.

When did you first become involved with The Performing Arts Center, or Purchase College? I believe it was when I brought a group of students to see Black Violin.

Describe in a few lines how your organization engaged with The Performing Arts Center in the past year? Our school has attended events, participated in workshops, and been the audience for various international cultural organizations when they have visited The PAC.

What surprised you the most about the partnership? The various in-house opportunities we have participated in via The PAC.

What artist inspires you and why? Phylicia Rashad inspires me as an actor and director as she continues to reinvent herself and remain relevant to her audience.

Can you name an event or project you would love to see at The PAC? Dormeisha Sumbrey-Edwards, a phenomenal tap dancer.

What is the best advice you have received or what advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time? Some of the best advice I have received has been from my mother — she encouraged me to combine education and theatre. I have continued to be involved in both all of my adult life and have found success in both arenas.

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