Voices Lifted: Mosaic Youth Theatre Wins Big in $500K Lewis Prize for Music Grant

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit offers its members opportunities to excel in music while helping them find their voice in more ways than one.

Photo provided by DeLashea Strawder



Their gifts have made room for them time and time again.


This time it’s no different for the multi-talented Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit who recently won a $500,000 grant through the Lewis Prize For Music, a philanthropic music arts organization that helps cultivate creative youth development, according to https://mosaicdetroit.org/. Detroit-based We Are Culture Creators, a media arts collective and label, also won a $25,000 grant through Lewis Prize.


Founded in 2018 by philanthropist Daniel R. Lewis, The Lewis Prize for Music aims to help young people have greater connectivity to high-quality music learning, performance, and creation opportunities that will help them in the long run. Awardees for The Lewis Prize for Music, which is split into three categories and includes both long-term and single-year support, and was formally announced earlier in January according to its website, https://www.thelewisprize.org/2021awardees.


Mosaic was founded by Rick Sperling in 1992 to address any gaps in Metro Detroit arts education. Mosaic Youth Theatre Executive and Artistic Director DeLashea Strawder said that the grant will do great things for Mosaic. And as a Mosaic alumna she knows how vital music is, and all that it offers, and she was able to participate in music programs growing up without a second thought.


“I didn’t know that wasn’t everyone else’s experience,” she said, adding that when she joined Mosaic in her high school years it was the first time she was encouraged to push past the boxes she was put into as an academically advanced student and explore who she was in full. “I was very, very shy when I joined Mosaic. … It was the first time I was encouraged to really speak my mind and share and explore all of the different (variations) of myself.”


Strawder blossomed there, becoming at 16 Mosaic’s music director and making music accessible to different communities. That is also where she learned that a person living down the street could have a very different experience of her own — and also the things she wasn’t always afforded.


“It opened my eyes and gave me a passion for making sure that everyone had the opportunity to pursue whatever it is they wanted regardless of where they came from or their background,” the 2002 Detroit School of Arts graduate said.


Mosaic plans to use the grant funding toward transportation support for the program as well as offer increased mentorship and training by professional artists.


“Our goal with the Lewis Prize is to be able to expand our music programs and deepen the services that we are able to provide young people so they can take full advantage of (what) Mosaic has to offer,” she said.


Strawder added that a person’s barriers might not only be finances when joining Mosaic and a “myriad of things” come up in young people’s life.


“We want to be a part of making sure young people have what they need to feel completely successful …  through various stages of their life and development.”


Mosaic members Joi Arrington and Mia Arrington, (10th graders in the South Redford School District) have been involved in Mosaic’s programs for four years.


“Since joining Mosaic I have become more confident in my talents and become more professional,” Joi Arrington said. “I think the Lewis Prize Award is a good thing. It will help young artists get more opportunities and will raise awareness about the great things going on here.”


Mia Arrington echoed similar thoughts.


“Being in Mosaic has made me more confident in skills,” Mia Arrington said. “They have helped me with technique. I have become more confident overall, and better able to talk with people. I’ve also improved my social skills. It’s great that we got The Lewis Prize Award. I think it will give more opportunities for young people to get involved with Mosaic.”


For more information on Mosaic visit https://mosaicdetroit.org/.



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