“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” –Rumi
“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain
We talk a good game about arts education.
We know that exposure to arts education helps test scores, boosts self-confidence, teaches teamwork, encourages critical thinking, fosters positive self-expression, keeps kids out of trouble, gives non-academic types the opportunity to shine, and so much more.
Can we just all decide that all that stuff is a given, and take a moment to concentrate on one thing?
This last month has been an explosion of arts opportunities, a veritable cornucopia of creative experiences, for young people across Santa Cruz County. We held five Family Art Nights, where grandmothers and babies and everyone in between danced, drummed, and painted.
One of our board members described her experience at a Family Art Night as a “shot in the arm of AWESOME.” And it was. Parents connected with their children, kindergarteners created puppets together, usually-sullen early teens banged away on African drums with their eyes closed in abandon.
And then, Thursday night, we unveiled the Children’s Art Exhibition at the County Government Center. Over 500 pieces of artwork from schools across the county were on display, all products of our two arts education programs, SPECTRA and Mariposa’s Art.
Hundreds of family members packed the chambers of the County Board of Supervisors to watch their children receive kind words and certificates from Zach Friend, the 2nd District Supervisor.
These same children posed with their artwork that is currently lining the walls of the County Government Building. If you need to pay a parking ticket, go to jury duty, or just want to take a nice walk through what is usually a dull concrete building, go now. See all of this incredible artwork, most of which I could never match with my own pathetically meager artistic skills.
The joy in the building Thursday night was infectious, palpable, delicious. The proud young artists and equally proud parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters brought me to tears a dozen times.
This is why we show up to work every day. Not to write grants, not to advocate for arts issues, not to create spreadsheets and to-do lists and programs and systems. We show up because we know that every person in this county needs and deserves to feel the joy that was on every face at the opening reception Thursday night. And the arts are the best way I know to nurture that joy.
So if you are in Santa Cruz, go to the County Building to see the show. I’m confident that the energy and excitement of the exhibition opening left an indelible mark on the walls and in the air surrounding the 1st and 5th floors. Go get your own shot of awesome.