Third Person Therapy, Coffee Milk Opera among 93 RISCA grant recipients

Posted 12/27/22

Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts [RISCA], Susie Schutt of Third Person Therapy will spend eight weeks working with third-graders from Varieur Elementary …

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Third Person Therapy, Coffee Milk Opera among 93 RISCA grant recipients


Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts [RISCA], Susie Schutt of Third Person Therapy will spend eight weeks working with third-graders from Varieur Elementary School’s inclusion classroom to practice and nurture social and emotional skills.

Third Person Therapy is one of two Cranston organizations that received grant funding from RISCA to further advance arts and cultural activities throughout the state; 93 organizations were awarded throughout Rhode Island and a total of $452,206 was handed out.

Schutt, registered drama therapist and founder of Third Person Therapy, started her LLC in August of 2022. Her company was awarded $2,750 to use drama and theatre techniques, including role-play, improvisation and rehearsal to practice social and emotional skills and build community in the process. In these workshops, Schutt said students will begin with a physical and vocal warm up. From there, the workshops are dependent on the class’s needs. Some of the topics covered may include learning skills for distress tolerance. For instance, if someone is playing a game and losing, individuals are taught to lose with grace. Schutt said one of her favorite things to do with students is to act out the wrong way to respond in the most dramatic way and then have kids show her the right way to act.

When teachers work on social and emotional learning concepts in the classroom, Schutt said the ideas are explained but practiced minimally. These arts-based workshops will help kids practice the skills in real time and the hope is for teachers to integrate lessons from the workshops in the classroom.

Schutt’s hope is that students can be in a relationship with each other in a safe and healthy way.

“And my hope is that they’ll remember some of this stuff as they get older,” Schutt said.

While any age is great to work with, Schutt said, one thing that's good about third grade is that the kids have self awareness in a different way than younger students, but are not self-conscious yet like older kids. She said they get beautiful self-reflection with this age group.

Schutt has been a theater educator for the past 15 years and currently works with Kindergarten through fifth grade students at Warwick’s Norwood Elementary School as a registered drama therapist.

In addition to Third Person Therapy, Cranston’s Coffee Milk Opera received $3,000 to hold free, public performances of La Bohème at Roger Williams Park, Temple to Music on May 12 and 13 in 2023 (weather permitting). The organization is currently in discussion with Providence Public Library as a backup location in case of rain on those dates. Coffee Milk Opera is a new, innovative opera company named after the state's drink.

“Our main mission is to share our love of opera to an audience base of community neighbors, families, music-lovers, as well as anyone who has not been exposed to the art form previously. We want everyone to feel welcome: opera for all, by all. We hope that the impact of our performance will inspire and enrich our audience members and give the community the vantage point that opera and classical music is something that is available to them,” said Krista Wilhelmsen and Kate Norigian.

By making it free in a public park, and by hiring an inclusive and diverse cast, Coffee Milk Opera wants to try to minimize the barriers that Providence and surrounding areas may have about attending an opera.

“Our hope is that one passerby watches the event for a short time and then encourages their friends and family to attend our next performance. We want families and casual park attendees to feel welcome knowing that they are not bound by the constraint of ‘proper opera etiquette,’” Wilhelmsen and Norigian said.

The organization wants children to grow up one day and say, “we watched free operas in the park when I was a kid and now, I’m a fan” and for the community to see themselves on-stage in the cast and feel represented. 

“We are so grateful to RISCA for giving us this grant and believing in us,” Wilhelmsen and Norigian said. “We also want to thank our non-profit sponsor, Common Fence Point for their support and tireless efforts to help us with the grant application and our other needs as a startup opera company.”

According to RISCA, the state’s Arts Agency also implemented a program that supports existing arts workforce development programs for arts and culture organizations, culturally specific organizations and secondary schools.

“Totaling $218,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, 14 arts workforce entities were awarded grants of between $10,000 and $25,000. The funds will prepare R.I. residents for employment in the creative sector,” reads a Dec. 20 release.

In announcing the grants RISCA’s Executive Director Lynne McCormack thanked Governor Den McKee, General Assembly members and Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation for their continued support.

“We are proud that included in this grant cycle is a program that ensures that recipients receive important funding to strengthen, formalize or begin careers in the arts with creative skills necessary for RI’s 21st century workforce.” said McCormack in a Dec. 20 release. “And, many thanks to the diverse group of members of our arts community who gave input and feedback regarding the awarding of all of these grants to an incredible group of grantees.”

Starting Feb. 1, RISCA will be accepting applications for grants to arts and culture organizations, individual artists, arts educators and artists in healthcare. The deadline to complete an application is April 3. To learn more, visit

RISCA, grants


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