Downing-Gross Recognizes Women's History Month with March Programming

Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center has joined the national celebration of Women’s History Month. The celebration began with a sold out show on March 3rd – The 4th Annual Ladies in Red Concert and Award Show. This annual performance, presented by Myra Smith-Jones, honors local women for their contributions to society. Among the awardees were Virginia Beach resident Andrea Gaines, President and Founder of Habesha Momma, Inc. – a foundation dedicated to improving the livelihood of children in Ethiopia – and Sirron Ware, licensed stylist and creator of A Beautiful Coif, supplying free wigs to women suffering cancer-related hair loss. The event featured a choir of 60 women, aptly dressed in red, performing a variety of medleys and songs by various female artists.

They hope to continue the momentum with their third installment of Pearl Bailey’s Hidden Gems Dance Series, choreographed by Hampton-resident and founder of The Goode Dance Project, Iris Goode Middleton. Also, Pearl 100 – starring local performer and Pearl-Bailey-impersonator, Nina Brewton – will be held on March 29th, celebrating the 100th birthday of the late American icon in her birthplace.

To close out the month of programming, Downing-Gross will acknowledge the future of women’s history – the youth. The cultural arts center is proud to present their first ever girls’ empowerment conference, Young Lady You Are, sponsored by Lions Bridge Financial Advisors.

“We intend to create a positive epidemic of change for young ladies in Newport News and surrounding cities through the arts. They will experience a network of local creative talent that will expose them to feasible avenues for self-expression in successful, artistic ways – ways which would have otherwise remained hidden to them.” remarked Cindy Johnson, Cultural Arts Specialist and YLYA Program Developer. “Our goal for Young Lady You Are is to expose these young ladies to unconventional avenues of success via the arts and culture. Thus, they will get hands-on instruction through fun workshops pertaining to careers in the arts that are led by successful, local, female business leaders.”

This one-day conference will feature three workshops, each focusing on a different form of self-expression: a dance workshop instructed by Dreams in Motion Dance Studio director Liza Infanzon-Smith, a fashion/vision board workshop led by designer and Hampton-resident Erika Randolph, and also a culinary arts workshop presented by Maryland-native and experienced chef, Myeshia Cloud and Danielle Williams, owner of Deliciously Done. It will culminate in a panel discussion featuring local women who have careers associated with the arts, followed by a keynote address and a special guest performance. The best part is that this event is completely free for the girls. Registration is required. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please send an email to

For more information on these programs and other events happening at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, visit or call 757-247-8950.


About Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center

The Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center is a multi-purpose cultural space in the Southeast community of Newport News, VA. Originally built as the Walter Reed School, the historic building has been restored and open to the public since October 2008. The building is owned and operated by the City of Newport News, Parks, Recreation and Tourism department.

The center houses several event spaces and large/small group gathering rooms available for event rental. The core of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center is the Ella Fitzgerald Theater, a 276-seat venue named for the “First Lady of Song.” Other event spaces in the building include the Anderson Johnson Gallery, the Newport News Community Gallery, the L. Marian Poe Meeting Room, the Banquet Room, and the Charles C. Allen Executive Board Room.