Artist Statement – Lara GonzalezLara is Co-Founder, Artistic/Program/Development Director, Performer and lead Teaching Artist for her performance and educational group, Marafanyi Drum, Dance & Song. Their mission is a commitment to sharing the Transformative, Educational and Therapeutic powers of Drum, Dance and Song with all ages and abilities.Ms. Gonzalez has studied West African music and dance in the U.S. with artists including Babatunde Olatunji, Sanga-of-the-Valley and M'Bemba Bangoura - and has traveled to Guinea, West Africa five times to study with artists from Les Ballets Africain (Guinea's National Company), Merveilles de Guinea, Wamali Percussione and Les Etoiles de Boulbinet.Lara is a versatile musician/arranger and director as well as dancer/choreographer. She is the creator and director of the multi-media community performance art piece, "Marafanyi Meets the Mural: Alaa Awad's 'Justice' Becomes a Catalyst for a Community Collaboration", funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and MCLA's Downstreet Art for 2 seasons.In addition, Lara had the honor of dancing as a guest community artist with Ronald K Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company in the piece "On Earth Together" at Williams College in 2016, and most recently as a guest dancer for world-renowned visual artist, Nick Cave, appearing in one of his Soundsuits as part of his exhibition, "Until" at MASS MoCA in 2017. Both of these humanitariam artists, and their work, are overwhelmingly inspiring to Lara.A graduate of Fordham University earning a B.A. in Art History/Studio Art, Ms. Gonzalez has evolved into a versatile artist with a passion for Arts Integration. She shares this passion as a Professional Development facilitator for educators, artists and administrators including at Arts Education conventions and as keynote presenter. In addition, she is trained in Orff Schulwerk and has designed custom/adapted Drum, Dance & Song programs for Special Needs clients.