First lady hands out awards to youth arts programs

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Michelle Obama praised the power of the arts to help young people pursue their talents as she helped hand out awards to 13 youth arts programs on Friday, including to one based in her Chicago hometown.

The work done by these after-school and other programs shows why funding the arts is necessary, the first lady said.

"If it isn't clear by now why we have to invest in the arts and we have to give kids the opportunity to pursue their gifts, you know, you just think of all the kids that are just bursting with this kind of talent and energy and need who do not have access, who do not have opportunities to display and develop these gifts," she said after an energetic dance performance by the Itefayo Youth Ensemble of Brooklyn, N.Y., one of the honorees. "Just imagine what we're missing out on as a nation."

The Storycatchers Theatre's programs for detained and incarcerated youth in Chicago teaches young people involved with the juvenile justice system to write, produce and perform original musical theater inspired by their personal stories.

Other programs recognized with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award during a White House ceremony are:

_Art Reach, Provincetown, Mass.

_Boston Children's Chorus.

_Community-based youth education programs, Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts, Buffalo, N.Y.

_Investigating Where We Live, National Building Museum, Washington.

_ORCHKids, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

_Pearl Bailey Library, Newport News, Va.

_Project AIM, Creative Kids, El Paso, Texas.

_Project Discovery, Dallas Theater Center.

_Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Brooklyn, N.Y.

_WriteGirl, Los Angeles.

The Kuruka Maisha Foundation, of Nairobi, Kenya, received the International Spotlight Award.

The awards are presented by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with three national cultural agencies. Each of the U.S. programs will receive $10,000.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama named seven new committee members, including Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager of his re-election campaign, and actor Kal Penn, who previously worked for Obama's White House and is perhaps best known for his roles in the Harold and Kumar films and the television program "House."


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