Above the Clouds: Faith-based nonprofit provides free access to the arts in Fort Worth

Story by Whitney Carter. Photos and video by Lawson Martin.

A faith-based nonprofit in Fort Worth is providing free national arts education programs to children between 5 and 17 years old. The offerings include dance classes such as classical ballet, modern dance, and hip-hop– they even offer vocal lessons.

Tina Washington, Director of Above the Clouds, Inc., says these are opportunities many of these children may not have otherwise received.

“It’s totally free to the students,” Tina says. “We provide everything for the students. We know that with ballet, shoes and tutus can be expensive, so we don’t want any child to feel left behind or to feel unvalued during their experiences in the classes.”

According to Tina, the organization meets families where they are in order to help their children study the art they are interested in. She says this work is especially needed in communities where African American and Hispanic children live because, at times, they may not have access to these programs nearby. Even if they do have proximity, the challenges can also be financial.

“We offer arts like classical ballet, modern dance, hip-hop vocal, [and more]. Children that come through our doors are shy or quiet, but by the time they complete a semester, they are energetic, their self-confidence is stronger, and they have a sense of what art is really like. They see that they can achieve their dream,” Tina explains.

Above The Clouds, Inc. was founded in 2002 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tina explains that the organization’s president, Linda Wade, used to travel back and forth from Milwaukee to a Texas women’s prison and ask women about how they ended up in their current position.

“They always shared about what happened to them as children or bad decisions as young adults. Coming back from a prison [visit], she was praying and asking the Lord how she could provide a place where children could express themselves freely to keep them out of trouble,” Tina explains. “After operating in Milwaukee for over 20 years, Above The Clouds was started in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2021.”

Linda and another woman passionate about the arts, Barbara Melsheimer, incorporated Above The Clouds and hosted their first class in 2002. The organization started growing significantly in 2010. By 2020, Above The Clouds partnered with Danceworks, and in the process, gained access to their facilities and trained teachers.

According to the organization’s website, Linda was a proponent of the arts for decades and realized what they could do for people feeling lost or needing something positive to look forward to.

“I wanted to do something so that our children in Milwaukee would have a safe place where they could express themselves, learn a variety of art mediums, and feel the love of Christ,” Linda says on the nonprofit’s website.

Above the Clouds is able to offer the classes for free thanks to grants from foundations. They also lean into the support and generosity of people and local businesses.

Their tireless work is not possible without the generosity of others. Not just financially, but through their time, and that’s where Tina says they are always looking for help. Volunteers can assist them by getting the word out about the program so that as many kids and families as possible can receive the opportunity to participate.

“Volunteers can also assist the instructors in the classroom and with community engagement events with our partnering sites. Grants and donations fund us, so recruiting donors, sponsors, and funders, as well as assisting with fundraising events throughout the year is a huge help,” Tina says.

You can check out the Above the Clouds – Texas website to learn more about when the next classes are, how to register, and how to get involved.