The Raleigh Arts Commission awarded RDU on Stage the Medal of Arts “Arts Hero” award this October for its efforts with regard to the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19.
RDU on Stage, a Triangle-based theater review and podcast site, opened conversations about racism in the theater and arts community in early March, before George Floyd's murder in May sparked a nation-wide racial reckoning.
The Raleigh Arts Commission created the "Arts Hero" award this year, in response to the events of 2020. RDU On Stage was chosen as the recipient of the 2020 award because it provided a virtual community during a difficult time.
“It has become a virtual home where individuals of any race, identity or background can meet, drop by, talk, share, learn and receive sources of help,” the commission said in a press release.
When Floyd was killed by police, president and founder of RDU on Stage Lauren Van Hemert noticed a voice and point of view that was still unattended to at RDU on Stage.
After attending North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre's production of "Bourbon at the Border" featuring Juan Isler, Van Hemert realized Isler was the voice missing from RDU on Stage.
Van Hemert described Isler as a talented and charismatic actor who is capable of holding an engaging conversation on racism and theater.
In June, Van Hemert asked Isler if he would be interested in hosting a forum on racism and theater. He agreed, and Theatre on Racist Negativity, which has been running for over four months, was born.
“I think it wouldn't have worked had we not had months of already doing these community conversations.” Van Hemert said. “I don't think, had George Floyd been murdered and we not already engaged the community, the way we were, I don't think these conversations would have worked.”