Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 15
Winter 1993
A Matter of Time & Talent

     Since graduating from the University in l977, Raye Jones Avery of
Wilmington, Del., has found one interesting job after another in public
service agencies, supplementing her income with her singing talents.
     Today, as the director of the Christina Cultural Arts Center, she has
found a job that gives her the best of both worlds-a chance to hone her
administrative skills in a vibrant, artistic atmosphere.
     It's an exciting time to be part of the cultural center, which is
primarily a community school for the arts that makes training in all
disciplines (music, dance, visual arts, theatre and voice) available to
families with limited income.
     The facility is unique, Jones Avery says, "because we are
multi-disciplinary and we focus on the celebration of African-American
culture. We tell the people we serve here that education is the real key.
If we're able to succeed educationally, mainstream culture will be more
accepting of our culture."
     Housed at 800 East Seventh St. in Wilmington, the center has been "the
heart of the east Wilmington community for 47 years," Jones Avery says. In
addition to community classes in the arts, concerts, art exhibitions and
theatre and choral events, it has offered a child-care program, an
after-school program and a full-time, summer day-care program for
neighborhood children.
     In the fall, it is slated to move uptown to newly renovated quarters
at 705-707 North Market St., a move city leaders hope will be key to
establishment of an arts district in the area.
     "The new quarters on the Market Street Mall will give us a much higher
profile in terms of reaching a broader community. We will be very
accessible for the urban community by foot and by bus. It makes us a key
player in the development of a cultural marketplace downtown," Jones Avery
     Currently, the center serves 16,000 people through its performing and
visual arts series, student performances, dance recitals and appearances by
regional performers.
     When Jones Avery graduated in l977, her first job was with Jea P.
Street, Delaware '74, an advocate for students during the implementation of
desegregation in New Castle County schools.
     Later, she worked for Planned Parenthood for five years, while earning
a master's degree from West Chester University. Then, she spent another
five years at United Way of Delaware, serving as director of planning
before she left.
     During her stint with United Way, Jones Avery conducted a state-wide
research project called Insight Delaware, a detailed environmental
assessment that scanned everything from economics to demographics.
Published in l991, the survey includes projections to the year 2010 and is
still used by many planners in the housing service industry to assess
community needs.
     At the cultural arts center, Jones Avery is responsible for
administration, strategic planning, personnel (there are five full-time
employees and 22 part-time arts instructors), financial management and fund
raising ("The biggie," she says with a sigh).
     Jones Avery also is a popular area entertainer, singing at such spots
as the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for New Year's Eve.
     "I guess it's glamorous once you get out there on stage, especially if
the audience is good and the people are responding, but otherwise, it's a
lot of work, especially splitting my time between two careers. Most
professional musicians don't work full time somewhere else."
     Jones Avery was only 17 when she entered the University. Still, she
says she found a mentor for life in James Newton, now director of the Black
American Studies Program, and a ready friend in Alvin Turner, who worked in
the counseling center.
     In those days, Jones Avery says, most black students came to the
University from segregated schools and were shocked by such large numbers
of whites on campus. "It was a challenge to black students not to feel lost
and isolated. People who were coming out of the Wilmington Public School
System had never been in a mixed-system before, but, because I had always
gone to predominantly white schools, I knew what to expect and knew I could
     While at the University, Jones Avery saw the House of Amojo, now the
Center for Black Culture, developed. She also participated in the College
Try Program, an academic enrichment program for minorities that sponsored
an orientation to college life before the start of the semester.
     Jones Avery says she is glad "to be in my community," working with the
people she loves best in downtown Wilmington.
     When she's not at the cultural center, singing or caring for her three
children, she also finds time to serve on the board of the Henrietta
Johnson Medical Center, the state-wide Council for Ethnic Minority Affairs,
the governor's task force on voluntary Saturday schools and the Coalition
to Save Our Children, an advocacy group.
                                   -Beth Thomas