Paul Miller started out as a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
. He founded Circus Mojo
, a circus arts program for children and adults, in 2009, and will be opening the Institute of Social Circus & Vocational Training Center in Ludlow, Ky., next year.
The Institute of Social Circus will be the first training center in the world dedicated to teaching adults circus techniques, team building skills and social work principles for the purpose of training, educating and meeting the needs of disenfranchised youth, hospitalized people and youth in juvenile centers or other institutions.
The Institute for Social Circus is developing a certification program in applying circus training with three focus areas: youth, medical settings and adults who are seniors and/or have disabilities.
“For about 20 years, I’ve heard all of the baggage that comes with being a clown in the United States, and I want to work to broaden it from a strictly circus job,” Miller says.
At the Institute of Social Circus, clowns will become Circus Wellness Specialists, who will make people laugh, but also try to bring humanity to the hospital. For the past four years, Circus Mojo has had a contract with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
to dispense Mojo Medicine. Performers work as Circus Wellness Specialists to reduce anxiety in patients and their families, and work to build hospital staff morale.
In 2012, Miller and a group of international partners purchased the former Duro Bag headquarters from the city of Ludlow with the help of a $10,000 contribution from Duke Energy
. The building will become the Institute, and will be a block and a half from the Circus Mojo
theater, which was an old movie theater built in 1946. Miller purchased the historic building from the city of Ludlow for $1 four years ago.
The Ludlow Fire Department did all of the demolition on the theater, which saved Miller thousands of dollars; they’re going to do the demo on the Institute as well.
“The idea of a private/public partnership in the city of Ludlow is if a clown buys a theater, the fire department does the demo,” Miller says. “It’s a unique way to get things done, and it really helped me out.”
Miller also hopes to offer jobs to the hundreds of circus performers who are without jobs. He’s had people from 15 different countries come and stay at the Circus Mojo apartment next door to the movie theater. Miller says about 30 other countries use clowns in hospitals to distract patients during treatment, which saves a fortune for health care organizations.
“I want to send kids home with new skills, not just a cast, scar or prescription,” Miller says.
Miller is currently looking for investors for the low-profit, limited-liability Institute.
By Caitlin Koenig
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