By Mariah Secrest
In the first installment of the Unlikely Beauty series, we looked at the work that CTI Music Ministries is doing worldwidestretching life and beauty through the arts to the furthest and sometimes remotest corners of the earth. But often we dont need to look very far to find a need for hope. We really just need to keep our eyes open to those we normally pass by without notice in our day-to-day lives.
This week features a brand new community-based organization called Arts for Life dedicated to bringing the arts to the under-served children in my city of Tucson, Arizona. I caught up with founders Kathi and Richard in between the classes they facilitate to find out more about the program theyve launched and the dream behind it.
This past month has been the pilot run of a series of weekly lessons in the arts made available to children and teenagers in the community. Meeting at a central location, the kids divide up into their electives which include acting, drawing, keyboard, chorus, and guitar. Next month they will also get to choose from film acting, rhythm percussion, and a vocal workshop.
The Arts for Life facilitators are actively working to see to it that every child who wants to participate in their arts program has the opportunity to do so. Many of the children they seek to reach are from foster homes or group homes (if they have homes at all) and would never be able to afford private lessons.
Arts for Life seeks to match scholarships for those who need it as well as form partnerships with local businesses and individuals who will sponsor classes. Giving back to the community is at the heart of the programnot only for the volunteers but for the students as well, who are given the opportunity to get involved in service projects through their art and energy.
Eventually, Arts for Life plans to adopt a 24-hour facility dedicated to bringing as much good as it ca n to the community. This would include not only an art program but a shelter and job placement service as well. Kathi, whose heart has always been in community service, recognizes the program as a simple and clear way that we follow the principles of loving God and loving our neighbors.
She says that one tangible way we can experience love is by giving and receiving gifts. We as Christians know what it is like to receive love from God, and we each have gifts we can pass on.
But why focus on art? Arent there more than enough material needs in the community to keep us busy in our outreach? Having worked closely with children caught in cycles of dysfunction, Kathi has observed that people will only rise up to what they see. If all they know is dysfunction and anger and abuse, what motivation will there be to choose a different path?
But art brings hope, because it introduces a new and empowering source which builds not only skills but more importantly self-value. Richard agrees that art brings hope for a full life, adding that it is a universal language. As people engage the arts and use it to give back to others, they become part of what Kathi calls a life-giving cycle.
In exploring the role that the arts play in an impoverished world, I find it refreshing to find a group of people who recognize the power of this gift to empower others and increase their hopethus increasing ours as well.
Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she’s finishing a philosophy degree.She enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on Myspace at www.myspace.com/mariahsecrestmusic .