During the 2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference, we sat down with keynote speakers Corey Mitchell and Robin Grey to discuss their film Purple Dreams. The duo discusses their experience advocating for arts education, the impact it has had on students they’ve mentored and their journey to creating the film.
Skip to: 1:47 Arts education can help students develop skills in collaboration, creativity and confidence, but students don’t always have access to these programs. Purple Dreams made strides in showing what impact these programs can have on students. How do you think awareness can be raised around the importance of arts education?

“It’s unfortunate that the arts aren’t measurable by a standardized test. It’s just one of those things that is still important to almost everyone’s experience when they were in grade school, middle school and high school.” -Corey Mitchell

Skip to: 6:40 How has Purple Dreams been received by audiences?

“I think that we need to make people aware of the great things that they can perceive and see in children as they process in their arts education.” -Robin Grey

Skip to: 10:39 How do you think educators and parents can expose their students to arts education?
Skip to: 13:23 Have you experienced skepticism from some students about getting involved in the arts?

“There is responsibility that we have to our students as schools across this country to also help to develop them into being well-rounded human beings and that’s not always found directly on the pages of a book, it is an experience for them.” – Corey Mitchell

“Arts do make a whole rounded person and that it has many other positive effects that have been shown to then be catalyst to the students doing better in school.” -Robin Grey

Skip to: 17:19 Do you think arts education can have a more profound impact on at-risk children?

“The highest dropout rates are in underserved areas that don’t have arts programs.” -Robin Grey

“Arts education keeps kids in school. When we talk about at risk, my thought about at risk is at risk of dropping out and we have to prevent kids from dropping out of school. When we bring in arts education, their reason for dropping out disappears.” -Robin Grey

Skip to: 21:45 Corey, has your previous experience teaching a core subject influenced how you teach theater? If so, why?

“So much of what theater is, is language and expression and understanding those literary concepts of satire, irony and all of those things.” -Corey Mitchell

“When you’re looking at the school where your child goes, create and advocate for that urgency of what it means to have my child singing and dancing and expressing themselves.” -Corey Mitchell

Robin Grey

Robin Grey is the chief executive officer of Arts Empowers, a nonprofit advocating for meaningful arts education in public schools, especially for at-risk youth. She is the executive producer of the award-winning documentary Purple Dreams*. The award-winning film is evidence of the transformational power of an arts education. Grey’s passion to serve the underserved has informed both her professional career and personal achievements. Among other roles, she served as vice chairman of The Arts Empowerment Project during its founding four years – a nonprofit that connects at-risk children to Charlotte-area arts programs.

Corey Mitchell

Director, performer and teacher Corey Mitchell is the recipient of the 2015 inaugural Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award and was one of the top 50 finalists for the 2017 Global Teacher Prize. Mitchell and his students in the Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, NC, are the subject of the 2017 feature-length documentary Purple Dreams, which chronicles their production of The Color Purple and its journey to the main stage of the International Thespian Festival. Mitchell has 24 years in the classroom and has just completed his 18th year at Northwest, where he teaches acting and leads a dynamic musical theatre program.