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Event featuring the legacy of the late artist Prince will benefit this important cause in Topeka

Get ready to party like it’s 1999 and support a community organization committed to helping people with disabilities.

Rogue Event Studio, 917 N. Kansas Ave. in the NOTO Arts and Entertainment District, will continue its Icon Event series with a party on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. during the First Friday Artwalk. The event celebrates the late artist Prince.

Owner Ariel Unselt said June 7 was Prince’s birthday, and his party will feature his iconic sounds and vibrant style. Guests can enjoy live music performances, karaoke, a Prince costume contest and much more.

All proceeds raised during the event will benefit the Lois Curtis Center in Topeka, which seeks to empower people with disabilities through advocacy, education and community support.

Lois Curtis Center attorneys and board members are hopeful that their event honoring The Artist Formally Known as Prince at the Rogue Events Center on June 7 will be a profitable fundraiser to continue renovations to their building at 1921 SE Indiana Ave .Lois Curtis Center attorneys and board members are hopeful that their event honoring The Artist Formally Known as Prince at the Rogue Events Center on June 7 will be a profitable fundraiser to continue renovations to their building at 1921 SE Indiana Ave .

Lois Curtis Center attorneys and board members are hopeful that their event honoring The Artist Formally Known as Prince at the Rogue Events Center on June 7 will be a profitable fundraiser to continue renovations to their building at 1921 SE Indiana Ave .

Organizers say Prince’s humanity fits the goals of the Lois Curtis Center

“Prince is just so iconic,” Unselt said. “When you see the color purple or a specific symbol, you think of Prince. I read an article and the author wrote, “Prince’s business was humanity.” He didn’t just help these people or these people. His goal was to strengthen and uplift everyone, and that didn’t stop when he left the stage or the recording studio.

The Lois Curtis Center does not serve just one type of person. They help people who would otherwise fall through the cracks. Everything the Lois Curtis Center shares about who they want to influence; their business is humanity.”

Lois Curtis was an artist and black woman with multiple disabilities. She spent nearly twenty years in prison and an institution as a result of her disability before successfully petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999 to approve the Olmstead decision. The decision affirmed the rights of people with disabilities to live independently and access resources in their own communities. June is the anniversary of that decision.

“Miss Curtis used art to keep herself engaged and busy, and to tell her story and communicate with people,” said Ami Hyten, director and co-founder of the Lois Curtis Center.

Despite successes, including exhibiting her art at the White House and speaking internationally about her experiences as a disabled woman of color, it took Curtis another ten years after the Olmstead decision to access the support she needed to continue her find your own housing.

In addition to a blessing box, several books are on display in the Lois Curtis Center.In addition to a blessing box, several books are on display in the Lois Curtis Center.

In addition to a blessing box, several books are on display in the Lois Curtis Center.

Lois Curtis Center opened in Topeka in fall 2023

The Lois Curtis Center opened last fall to provide services, support and guidance to individuals with disabilities who may be marginalized within the disability community. Hyten said this could be due to being a person of color, being unhoused or trapped in foster care or prison systems.

“Our vision was to create a space in the community for people who experience barriers to services or have difficulty accessing the resources they need to live and thrive,” said Hyten.

The Lois Curtis Campus, 1921 SE Indiana, houses a standing food pantry for those experiencing food insecurity, as well as an ADA-accessible commercial kitchen, which is available at no charge to those looking to open a business or spend time cooking.

In keeping with Miss Curtis’ art background, the center has developed maker spaces where artists can access materials to create, including a recording studio with instruments and sound equipment.

“We are a community center,” Hyten said. “It’s about using the resources available and creating opportunities for people to use those resources. Consider the struggles people are experiencing in our community right now because they are unhoused and living in spaces that are unnecessarily risky or dangerous.

“These things have a cumulative effect. If one member of a family struggles to find resources, it affects the entire family and makes us less safe.”

Hyten points out that incarcerated individuals have access to instruction and supplies to develop their hobbies and skills while in prison. However, once they leave the system, these opportunities may be lost due to a lack of finances and other resources.

“They bring people to the Topeka Women’s Correctional Facility to teach the residents how to crochet, but what happens when you leave the area? Where can you find crochet hooks and a community to share them with?” Hyten asked.

Akkean Johnson Sr., an independent music contractor, walks through an area in the Lois Curtis Center where a studio will be built for music production and education.Akkean Johnson Sr., an independent music contractor, walks through an area in the Lois Curtis Center where a studio will be built for music production and education.

Akkean Johnson Sr., an independent music contractor, walks through an area in the Lois Curtis Center where a studio will be built for music production and education.

Lois Curtis Center is expanding with several missions

Other efforts of the Lois Curtis Center include the Highland Park Community Garden, which opened this spring, and the Lois Curtis Elementary School, which provides support for children with disabilities. Hyten said the nonprofit Topeka Independent Living Resource Center is also currently being rebranded as part of the Lois Curtis Center.

Proceeds from the Prince Icon Event at Rogue will be used to purchase supplies and equipment to outfit the Lois Curtis Campus and fund future initiatives, including accessible laundry facilities, multi-purpose and collaboration spaces, athletic fields, and training and technical assistance. Hyten said funding will ensure the long-term sustainability of the Lois Curtis Center, which will celebrate its grand opening on June 22.

“Community financial support continues to break down the barriers people experience in accessing the most basic things like food, snacks and hygiene,” Hyten said. “Donations go directly to supporting individuals in using the space.”

Hyten believes the vision behind the Lois Curtis Center aligns with how Prince lived his life.

“Look at the things Prince was involved in,” she said. “He saw the value of the arts and investing in communities, addressing environmental issues for Black and brown people, and issues of social justice.”

Rogue Event Studio, 917 N. Kansas Ave.  in NOTO, will honor the late artist Prince during his Icon Event series with a party on Friday from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM during the First Friday Artwalk.Rogue Event Studio, 917 N. Kansas Ave.  in NOTO, will honor the late artist Prince during his Icon Event series with a party on Friday from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM during the First Friday Artwalk.

Rogue Event Studio, 917 N. Kansas Ave. in NOTO, will honor the late artist Prince during his Icon Event series with a party on Friday from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM during the First Friday Artwalk.

The event will feature Purple Rain and Raspberry Beret cocktails and live music

In addition to Prince-themed cocktails with names like Purple Rain and Raspberry Beret, guests on Friday can enjoy food sold by Fiesta Queen candidate Gabriela Gutierrez. In addition, the Lois Curtis Center’s artist in residence, JQuory Guest, will provide live music, and award-winning poet Annette Billings will share her poetry works.

Admission to the event is free, but donations to the Lois Curtis Center are appreciated. Staff will be on hand to provide information about the center’s mission and to collect donations. Participants can also contribute to a raffle that evening.

“Prince: The Icon” is part of the Icon Event series, which celebrates iconic figures while raising money for charitable organizations. Unselt sponsored the last Icon Event in October 2023 with a party featuring singer Dolly Parton and said she plans to continue supporting local and national charities through such events at Rogue Event Studio.

“Rogue is about being brave and uplifting and empowering people,” says Unselt. “I feel like the Lois Curtis Center is going to take bold steps to empower and uplift people who might not otherwise have that support.”

This article originally appeared in Topeka Capital-Journal: Event with late artist Prince goes to important Topeka cause