This year alone they will have the opportunity to participate in programs in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, where they will meet and learn from renowned artists such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jeanine Tesori, Frank Gehry, José Parlá, Mickalene Thomas, Wynton Marsalis and Salman Rushdie and present their work to the public at top cultural institutions.
Actor Joseph Wood III participated in the YoungArts program in 2013. An Atlanta native, he trained at Southwest Arts Center and attended Tri-Cities Performing Arts Magnet High School in East Point.
Like most kids these days, his parents had him involved in a lot of different activities. He was about 13 years old when he began acting. But it was just another thing he did, he had no idea it could be his life’s work.
“I thought about becoming a mortician,” he said.
But more and more opportunities came his way and he began to realize how much acting was a part of him.
“I loved what it did to me,” he said. “Being kind of exposed like that brought out more of the real me.”
Wood said the application process was pretty straight-forward, but the actual program tested his skills.
Wood went on to Miami and participated in master classes in theater and film.
“I was a high school student and had never flown anywhere by myself before,” he said. “I met people from all over the country and it made the world smaller and not so scary.”
The program was set up test their endurance and determination.
“We were thrown into becoming professionals,” he said. “We’d learn a song on Sunday and be required to perform it on Tuesday.”
The experience prepared him for bigger and better things. He went on to appear in the short film “Letters,” the TV series “Boomerang,” the documentary “HBO: Masterclass” that was about YoungArts and a Hallmark channel movie called “The Watsons Go to Birmingham.”
He’s currently building a following with the Instagram handle: @ThenTheresJoe.
Past YoungArts winners include actors Viola Davis and Kerry Washington, Broadway stars Raúl Esparza and Billy Porter, recording artists Josh Groban, Judith Hill and Chris Young; Metropolitan Opera star Eric Owens; musicians Terence Blanchard, Gerald Clayton and Jennifer Koh; choreographers Camille A. Brown and Desmond Richardson; visual artists Daniel Arsham and Hernan Bas; internationally acclaimed multimedia artist Doug Aitken; television writer, producer, and director Jenji Kohan; New York Times bestselling author Sam Lipsyte; and Academy Award winners Doug Blush and Tarell Alvin McCraney.
“It is such a thrill to see the future of the arts reflected through the impressive applicants who apply to YoungArts’ annual competition each year,” said Sarah Arison, chair of the National YoungArts Foundation Board of Trustees. “We are honored to support these young artists as they begin their lives in the arts, and at every stage of their career, as they go on to do great things.”
Wood plans to give back by teaching some master classes locally. He looks back at how far he’s come and encourages others in metro Atlanta to apply.
“If you really want to pursue a career in the arts, this will open a lot of doors for you,” he said. “You’re exposed to some of the best and well-connected people in the industry.”