Bridging the Gap

Amanda Bonilla stays busy breaking down barriers between the Arts Association in Newton County and the Spanish-speaking community.

by Michelle Floyd

Having grown up as a dancer in the Spanish-speaking community, Amanda Bonilla can now help other students get more involved in the arts as the development coordinator for the Arts Association in Newton County.

“I’m so excited to have naturally fallen into the role of liaison for the Spanish-speaking community,” Bonilla said. “Being on the Arts Association staff has opened doors for families who have shied away from the organization because of the language barrier.”

In her short time in Covington, she has grown with the Arts Association organization, from a dance instructor to a full-time staff member. In January 2016, Bonilla started as a dance instructor with the Covington Regional Ballet, which falls under the auspices of the Arts Association, and later that summer, she was asked to join the organization’s Musical Theatre Camp team. She has held her role as development coordinator since October 2017, when she took the position on a part-time basis; it grew into a full-time role in July 2018. She also teaches hip hop, Broadway and contemporary dance classes for the CRB and serves as choreographer and artistic director for the Oxford Acting Company and Theatre Covington, also through the Arts Association, alongside
Jay Tryall and Gina Hay Bryan.

“Amanda’s infectious enthusiasm, passion for the arts, knowledge of the impact the arts can make on children and on the community and her talent as an artist, teacher and choreographer have radically changed the way we impact our community and region,” said Buncie Lanners, executive director of the Arts Association. “Because she is fluent in Spanish, Amanda has broadened our outreach in the Latino community. Truly, it was a Godsend for the organization and for me. She continues to lead and represent the organization in the community.”

A 2015 graduate of Brenau University Women’s College in Gainesville, Bonilla holds a Bachelor’s degree in dance performance with a minor in education. Before coming to the Covington Regional Ballet, she was a full-time dance instructor. CRB Artistic Director Peter Swan was Bonilla’s ballet professor at Brenau.

“I was honored that Peter Swan trusted me enough to join this team,” Bonilla said. “Once I fully understood what the Arts Association does on a larger scale, I took it as an opportunity to grow within the organization. As a dancer and performer, of course, you don’t want to think about the day you can’t do those things—and for the record, I don’t see that day coming anytime soon. However, as a realist, I know that it is important to have skills outside of performing.”

The Arts Association serves students from eight counties and more than 60 schools through its adult and young artists programs and concerts. It celebrates 30 years of service to Newton County in 2019.

“I most definitely want word to spread to the Latinx (a gender- neutral alternative to Latino and Latina) community that they can come to me with any questions about getting involved with the Arts Association,” Bonilla said. “We have so many avenues for a child to get involved through the arts: dance, singing, acting and strings.”

In addition to the CRB, Musical Theatre Camp, Oxford Acting Company and Theatre Covington, the Arts Association also houses the Oxford Singers, Newton County Community Band, Newton County Youth Strings, Creative Kids Camp, the True Colours Youth Art Exhibit and a full arts series of events and performances, including luncheon and summer evening concerts on the historic downtown Covington Square. This year, through the Arts Association’s partnership with donors Rob and Jean Fowler, the organization has created a Spanish-Speaking scholarship for a student. 

“Because she is fluent in Spanish, Amanda has broadened our outreach in the Latino community. Truly, it was a God-send for the organization and for me.”

Arts Association in Newton County Executive Director Buncie Lanners

“Growing up in a Latinx household where making ends meet wasn’t always easy, I understand that extracurricular activities can easily fall to the wayside,” Bonilla said. “It’s so rewarding to know that we can offer this scholarship to the Latinx community and that I am here to let them know about this amazing opportunity.”

Bonilla indicated that the Arts Association never turns away a family from joining one of its programs, and the staff feels rewarded to make an impact on families’ lives with about $45,000 in scholarships annually.

“I feel very grateful, happy and blessed with the Arts Association and all who work there to give my daughter a valuable opportunity for her personal growth,” said Maria Garcia, whose daughter, Maria Victoria, received a scholarship this year. “It gives me peace of mind to know that she is surrounded by and learning from well-trained professionals.”

Bonilla wants to see growth from the Arts Association’s corporate donors to help fund programs and other scholarships for students in and around Newton County. The Arts Association is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dependent on corporate, foundation and individual donors.

“As the largest non-profit in Newton County, we rely on significant donations to help us continue serving the region with high-quality arts,” Bonilla said. “We are unique in that no other organization in the region provides what we do under one roof. There are plenty of theatres, concert associations and dance schools, but we can proudly say we do it all.” 

To learn more about the Arts Association in Newton County, visit  newtoncountyarts.org 770-786-8188

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