Overview: ViVace Assai, Inc., is a support network for school districts, music, theater, and literature programs in Northwest Indiana. Founded in 2008 and incorporated as a non-profit association in 2011, ViVace Assai began encouraging regional performing arts festivals, other non-profit arts organizations, and professional ensembles around Porter and La Porte counties (such as the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra; pictured here and on the homepage sponsoring the Hoosier Stars at the “Hoosier Star of Stars Competition”).
VAI’s primary objective is twofold – first, to promote Written & Performing Arts (WPA) and connect younger generations to the longstanding performing arts traditions in our region and second, to rally celebrities, professional musicians, artists, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, conductors, authors, screenwriters, educators, and clinicians with local arts organizations, school districts, and students to supplement WPA opportunities, events, and education. ViVace Assai’s vision is to promote different venues for the arts wherever possible.
VAi successfully launched an educational campaign in 2015 by building events and activities associated with the annual WPA Showcase beginning each Memorial Weekend at Sweet Lou’s Restaurant, known as “Feed the Soul.”
Mission: To inspire the imagination, VAi will support and/or sponsor events, programs, and opportunities for “Written & Performing Arts in Northwest Indiana” (WPANI).
Purpose: To enrich students’ lives, VAi will connect the educational and professional worlds in music, theater, and literature, and build collaborative arts opportunities wherever possible.
Vision: To strengthen communities and other non-profit arts organizations, VAi will increase the overall awareness of, and exposure to WPANI, rally people around performing arts, and endeavor to create “Venues for Written & Performing Arts,” where educators, students, and local artists can work, study, and exhibit music, theater, and literature alongside professional artists, clinicians, and celebrities whenever possible.
NWI Influence: Collectively, VAI founders, staff members, colleagues, and advisors have been working as educators, musicians, and fine arts advocates across Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland for over three decades. They have collaborated with and/or assisted programs and events with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Navy Pier, the Peoples’ Music School / El Sistema, the Summer Rhapsody Music Festival, the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival, the Michigan City Children’s Choir Institute, the 50 year-annual-production of First Presbyterian’s “The Messiah,” the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, the South Shore Orchestra, the Northwest Indiana Hoosier Star Competition, the Young People’s Theater Company, and numerous productions with the Valparaiso Community School Corporation, the Michigan City Area Schools, Marquette Catholic High School, and the Duneland Area Community Band Program. Additionally, VAi staff members assisted the oscar-nominated director John Hancock on his final film, The Looking Glass, and they have now launched annual “Feed the Soul” Showcase events for students, local artists, non-profit organizations, and families at “Sweet Lou, That’s Who!” a Chicago style restaurant in Westville, IN.
History: In 2008, Miguel Rosario-Vega, Gayle Davis, and Derek Meilaender came together to form an association that could help sustain local orchestras, school music departments, and various longstanding regional arts traditions.
Working throughout Northwest Indiana as educators and musicians, they realized that school districts and local ensembles were suffering numerous hardships brought on by the early 21st century recession, a lack of awareness for current arts opportunities, and new legislation known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (NCLB), which regulated educational policies and school funding across the nation based on how well students scored on standardized tests.
However noble in its inception, NCLB, in truth, began altering fine arts opportunities nationwide in its implementation. As educational priorities shifted, certain school districts cut back fine arts programs, reduced staff members, or eliminated music departments all together. Some schools tried to appease the demand for high-stakes, standardized testing while keeping a balanced curriculum, but an incentive program devised by the Obama Administration, called “Race to the Top,” awarded states educational funding in 2009 for complying with various educational policies and it put even more pressure on failing schools to abide by the original legislation of NCLB.
Needless to say, in some districts, justification for studying anything related to the performing arts outweighed the necessity to turn around or maintain state standardized test scores – all for the sake of funding. For the strong fine arts departments and school communities, cuts never appeared to run too deep. Other schools were not so fortunate. To make matters even worse in Northwest Indiana by 2010, state funds were reallocated and the Indiana Education budget was cut by approximately 300 million dollars.
Meanwhile, as fine arts programs were suffering in local school districts, performing arts organizations across Northwest Indiana found it more and more difficult to retain younger audiences and events. Some non-profits tried to offer more youth activities and educational events to help balance arts education and keep audiences engaged. As time progressed, support for a strong foundation in fine arts education became even more challenged, and VAi founders believed that, perhaps one day, the longstanding arts traditions in Northwest Indiana might even begin to fade. The necessity to rally professional musicians, conductors, clinicians, arts organizations, and local school districts grew stronger each year.
The emphasis on sustaining local music programs and orchestras grew to encompass all Written & Performing Arts organizations across Northwest Indiana, with a dream that VAi could eventually do the same for schools in the greater Chicagoland area, the Midwest, or even the country. ViVace Assai’s purpose grew to support & connect music, theater, and literature programs and its mission evolved to connect as many districts, teachers, and professional artists as possible. With the support of other local educators, conductors, professional musicians, and fine arts advocates, VAi began to make silent headway.
Ultimately, the urgency to unite under an umbrella organization for the sake of maintaining Written & Performing Arts in Northwest Indiana while advancing fine arts education led ViVace Assai to become incorporated as a 501(c3) non-profit association in Michigan City.
The association’s name comes from two Italian musical terms. ViVace is generally given as an instruction to sing or perform a piece “energetically,” or “lively.” Assai can mean “even more so.” In a way, the name actually reflects the purpose of the organization itself (unintentionally!!!) – to rally students and families with the most energetic and enthusiastic artists working across music, theatre, and literature. Help ViVace change someone’s world for a day (or more!) – join the cause, support what you can, and build new opportunities with VAi whenever possible.