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Yo-Yo Ma tours Denver to help community organizations improve their neighborhoods / Westword

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On Thursday, August 2, the day after world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma made his Red Rocks debut, he teamed up with a slew of organizations and people across Denver-area neighborhoods to talk about community. While most other musicians come to a city, play and leave, Ma has used his 36-city, two-year tour as a chance to use his star power to help community organizations working to improve their neighborhoods.

His day started with a performance at Civic Center Park, with student musicians from Hamilton Middle School and Isaac Slade of the Fray. Governor John Hickenlooper then welcomed Ma and an audience of about 100 people with a speech. After delivering a vivacious solo performance at Civic Center Park, Ma drove across town to the heart of Aurora's Cultural Arts District to briefly attend a series of open conversations about refugees living in Aurora. With a grin on his face, he then journeyed to Westwood to visit Re:Vision, a nonprofit using art and gardening to build economic power in the largely Latino neighborhood, where residents are concerned about the effects of impending gentrification. Then he headed to RedLine, the nonprofit contemporary art center in Five Points.

Throughout the day, Ma offered many words of wisdom about transforming art into action. Among them, he said, "Empathy is something that can be taught. It's also a gift. As well as imagination, it's one of the hardest things to do since we're dealing with an artistic environment - to take an idea of something and to actually physicalize it."   PHOTO: Tristan Niskanen

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