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About the Institute

The African American Arts Institute (AAAI) is committed to promoting and preserving African American culture through performance, education, creative activity, research, and outreach. Since 1974, the AAAI has provided opportunities for thousands of Indiana University students to explore their talents in performance, teaching, and arts management, while pursuing degrees across the university's expansive curriculum.

Our Ensembles…

The AAAI manages performance ensembles that are offered for academic credit through the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

Performance Activities…

The AAAI ensembles have a long history of performing and facilitating programs locally, statewide, and nationally in concerts, workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and community service endeavors. Contact our booking agent for information.

Our Story…

Recognizing that student talent and interest in Black performance styles could foster the development of ensembles as a vital part of academic coursework, Herman C. Hudson, with the assistance of Executive Director Lillian Dunlap, established the IU Soul Revue in 1971. Demonstrating a repertoire based in R&B, soul, and other forms of urban Black popular music, the "Revue" would become America’s first collegiate Black popular music ensemble offered for academic credit. In 1974, the African American Dance Company was established as a credit-bearing course focused on Black dance. That same year, the African American Arts Institute was established to provide a mechanism for ensemble performance management and engagement in creative and research projects. One year later (1975), the African American Choral Ensemble was established to provide students with the opportunity to study and perform various forms of choral music that evolved out of the Black experience. These three ensembles have become integral components of the African American Arts Institute, while they also are offered as courses through the Department of African American and Africa Diaspora Studies. Our mission is to preserve and promote African American culture through performance, creative activity, education, research, and outreach. The ensembles serve as the primary vehicles through which we achieve this mission.

Under the leadership of outstanding artistic directors, the ensembles have provided hundreds of students with invaluable educational experiences over the years, while also providing those students with a sense of connection to IU. The Soul Revue was built and sustained under the leadership of Portia K. Maultsby, James Mumford, Kenneth Ware, Michael Woods, William Banfield, Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson, Johnny Griffith, Nathanael Fareed Mahluli, and current director Tyron Cooper. Iris Rosa has served as the Dance Company’s director throughout the ensemble’s history. Michael Gordon served as director and Mellonee Burnim as assistant director of the Choral Ensemble in its first year. And the ensemble was further developed under the directorships of Mellonee Burnim, John Williams, James Mumford, Keith McCutchen, and current director Raymond Wise.

I would like to thank our founders and former directors for their vision, and for the talent, commitment, and hard work they invested in building the Institute and its ensembles. And I would like to thank our talented and dedicated current directors and other members of the Institute staff for carrying on the work of those who came before us. Finally, thank you, students for bringing your talents to this very special program. Your music and movement teaches us, and makes us move, and smile!

Charles E. Sykes, Executive Director