Dallas — The final week of 2015 saw a touching display of artists, and the people who love them, giving back.
On Tuesday, local actress, singer and all-around diva Denise Lee surprised the folks at The Stewpot—one of the city's most prominent outreach centers for the homeless, providing food, clothing, toiletries, dental treatment and other services to about 1,000 people daily—with a donation from arts supporters Ellen Osburn and Sarah Blanchard of Therapeutic Innovations.
The $2,500 check was presented to Stewpot director Bruce Buchanan and administrative coordinator Betty Heckman.
"This is a population that is too often disparaged, and we wanted to help out in some way," said Osburn.
Here's how it began: Denise Lee started what has become a popular cabaret series at the Women's Museum in Fair Park this year. Osburn, a longtime arts supporter (she's a donor to Kitchen Dog Theater, among others), has been following Lee onstage for years. She came to several of the cabaret shows, at which Lee was accepting donations of blankets, and then toiletry items, for the Stewpot.
At one concert, Osburn told Lee that if she would sing the song "Home" from The Wiz, she would donate $200 to the Stewpot. Lee obliged—and at a concert that happened to be the same night as the live TV broadcast of The Wiz, no less.
Upon further investigation, Osburn learned about the incredible work that the Stewpot does, including providing not only important essentials, but also arts outreach programs, such as a visual art initiative. There's a gallery on the upper floor of the Stewpot's downtown Dallas home, and its artists work is occasionally shown around town, including a current exhibition at the J. Erik Jonsson Library in downtown.
Also, this year Jonathan Palant started the Dallas Street Choir, based out of the Stewpot; and local historian, writer and documentary filmmaker Alan Govenar's film about the Stewpot, Serving Second Chances, debuted this year at Dallas VideoFest. Govenar is raising money for the Museum of Street Culture in a building across the street from The Stewpot, at 508 Park Avenue, the same building where blues legend Robert Johnson made his first recordings. That property also includes a community garden and an amphitheater where movie screenings and other events are held for Stewpot clients.
For Lee, this is part of her mission with the cabaret series, in which every performance will also benefit a local charity.
"I want whatever I do to not just entertain, I want it to serve a greater purpose," Lee said. "I think we have a responsibility to give back. I choose to use my powers for good."
Lee has just announced the first shows in January and Feburary in the Cabaret Series, and the spring season will culminate in July with the first Dallas Cabaret Festival, featuring former Dallasite and New Yorker Jim Caruso, whose weekly Cast Party in NYC is big-time in the cabaret world. The Cabaret Series is free, and will move to two concerts a month in January.
Here's the January and February line-up:
- January 12: Linda and Larry Petty, "The Song Remembers When"
- January 26: Bernie Siben, "Self-Indulgence"
- February 9: Terry D. Loftis, "Two For The Road"
- February 23: Sara Shelby-Martin, "The Alto Line - My Life in Harmony"
- July 28-30: Dallas Cabaret Festival featuring Jim Caruso & Billy Stritch and lots of surprises
Exact dates for performers will be released later. Other performers slated for the series include B. J. Cleveland, Andrea Dawson, Jodi Wright, Rob Holbert, Carolyn Jones, Anton Shaw and Liz Mikel.
For more info, visit www.deniseleeonstage.com.