Student Life

Breaking Barriers in the Arts

The André De Shields Fund supports projects by historically underrepresented creators.

Andre De Shields

De Shields: “We have to stand up when the opportunity calls.” Lia Chang

As a Black actor, André De Shields ’70 was repeatedly denied roles in campus productions while attending UW–Madison. De Shields went on to a Tony-winning Broadway career in The Wiz and Hadestown, but his challenges at the UW and elsewhere have inspired the Wisconsin Union Theater to create the André De Shields Fund. It supports artistic projects and performances by Black, Indigenous, and people of color and others who are historically underrepresented on stages and in theater audiences.

De Shields will help promote the fund as a way to break down barriers.

“We have to stand up when the opportunity calls,” he says. “This fund is a vital illustration of what needs to be done.”

Another inspiration for starting the André De Shields Fund was the Black Arts Matter Festival, created by Shasparay Irvin ’20 to celebrate Black art and culture.

“I hope that we help the Andrés and Shasparays of today and tomorrow have fewer obstacles in their way,” says Wisconsin Union Theater director Elizabeth Snodgrass.

Published in the Spring 2022 issue


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