How Arts & Culture Experiences Open New Pathways for A Child – Profile on Hannah Hasan
— Exposure to the arts at a young age helps children see the world more broadly than what is right in front of them.
“There’s no denying that any social justice movement in the world has an artistic element attached to it."Hannah Hasan - Storyteller and creative consultant
By: Loán C. Lake, Communications Director
As part of its commitment to providing residents with access to arts and cultural experiences in their neighborhoods, The Arts and Science Council is hosting Connect with Culture Days, presented to the community by Wells Fargo - on Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8. Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents and visitors can attend museums and enjoy diverse arts, science, history and heritage experiences across the county for free with no limits on the number of programs they participate in.
Leading on Opportunity is serving as a Connect with Culture Day Ambassador because we understand the importance of having access to programs that could mean the difference between a child being recruited to the streets, finding a positive community to which they can belong, and a child excelling in school. Throughout this week, we will introduce you to local artists who have benefited from early exposure to the arts, experienced new career and life opportunities because of arts and culture, or who are using their creative talents to open doors for others.
Meet storyteller and creative consultant Hannah Hasan:
Charlotte performing artist Hannah Hasan who wears many hats. She has seen the positive impacts of the arts on her life and now uses poetry and spoken word to make a difference for others. Hasan is a spoken word storyteller who is commissioned by individuals and organizations to write and perform their stories through spoken word poetry. She is also the artist in residence for the local non-profit QC Family Tree. In that role, she helps to preserve the history and give voice to the residents of the Elderly Park neighborhood using stories she has gathered from residents during community conversations and productions. Additionally, Hasan runs a creative consulting business where she leads master classes, workshops and training on storytelling – a skills that is proving to be at the center of successful organizations today.
Hasan was first exposed to the arts as a child. Her dad, a former DJ turned Muslim Imam, loved music and ensured that she and her siblings joined the band. Her mother, a writer, introduced Hasan to her first poem, Trees by Joyce Kilmer. “I grew up in Statesville [North Carolina], a town without a lot of access to arts, so being in the band helped me understand creativity, how to lead in arts spaces, and just learn so much about myself,” Hasan says. She was first introduced to playing the trumpet, and even had her own instrument, a gift from her father. However, her band teacher at the time told her that her lips were too big for the special type of trumpet she had, assigned her to play the baritone and tuba (larger brass instruments), and demanded that she never bring her trumpet to school again. Hasan did not share the experience with her parents until much later in the school year. “It wasn’t until our band concert that my dad realized I was playing another instrument. When I told him what had taken place, he organized the community to have the instructor fired. That’s where I learned how to be a community organizer,” Hasan says.
What could have been a crushing moment that deterred Hasan from the arts turned into a teachable lesson that showed her the power of standing up to injustice. Hasan persevered and continued her music studies into high school, where she encountered a band director who would help to instill leadership skills that she uses even today. “When I was in high school, the band director would let me lead [the class]. I’d bring in hip hop and other songs for the band to play – which was not common in Statesville. An important seed was planted, and I learned in that environment how to lead in arts spaces,” Hasan also says. The social capital provided to her by her high school instructor showed Hasan what life could look like when given the opportunity to thrive. Hasan, a lover of the arts and all that is creative, wants to see people coming together through all art forms. It is this desire, along with a growing understanding of her own history as an African-American and Muslim, that pulled her into the work of social justice while in college. “There’s no denying that any social justice movement in the world has an artistic element attached to it. I have a love for the arts because of my love for justice and bettering the world,” Hasan also says.
If she were not a performing artist and consultant, Hasan says she would be in workforce development because she enjoys attaching people to their future and opportunities. She credits the arts and culture sector with providing her the social capital to be an entrepreneur for the past two years, and to make a living doing what she loves most. “Almost every single opportunity [I’ve had] has come from social capital, and it’s because people feel inspired by my art. There is a transfer of energy that happens when people experience art and they crave it and want more of it,” Hasan says.