‘The First Time I Saw It, I Cried’ – Local Dance Instructor Featured in National Arts Video

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - An arts organization known for theater is taking center stage in a way it never expected. The National Endowment for the Arts produced a new video featuring the work of University City-based COCA, The Center of Creative Arts.

Described as a “milestone” video by the NEA, the eight-minute piece showcases the different programs offered by COCA. It also highlights the success of a St. Louis man whose life was transformed by the organization. COCA Co-Artistic Director Antonio Douthit is interviewed about his journey through COCA.

“My mom was a single mother, and we lived on the north side of St. Louis, which is kind of a rough area. She battled substance abuse. She didn’t know how to raise us. Once I found dance, I figured out how to raise myself,” Douthit says in the video.

Douthit said he was introduced to dance at COCA at age 16. It was a life-changing experience, he said to KTVI.

“Once I found dance, my world just opened up to so many different possibilities for me as a young adult,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today, if the arts weren’t part of my life.”

It is an honor COCA does not take for granted.

“The NEA supports organizations in all 50 states. For them to single out us in St. Louis, is quite an honor,” COCA Executive Director Kelly Pollock said.
Recently celebrating its 30 anniversary, COCA specializes in a variety of fields, including dance, theater, vocal music, art and design.

Douthit was humbled to be featured alongside heavy hitters such as comedian Larry Wilmore and astronaut and former NASA Administrator Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr. (USMC-Ret.).

“The first time I saw [the video], I cried. Just because you think you’re making an impact here in St. Louis. And then you see this thing that’s going to be seen by millions and millions of people,” Douthit said.