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Creating a place for creativity

Liz DeCarlo

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MDRT Foundation supports local arts program.
When Jan Kirsch, director of professional development for Inner-City Arts (ICA) started working for the nonprofit, the entire program was housed in two bungalows in Los Angeles, California. Now the burgeoning children’s and teens’ arts program has a campus with nine large studios for many forms of artistic expression, and plans to build additional campuses.


During the recent Top of the Table Annual Meeting, the MDRT Foundation partnered with ICA, which offers arts education programs for youth and educators. Kirsh conducted an interactive workshop at the meeting to demonstrate one of the exercises they use to educate teachers on incorporating art into the classroom. The Foundation also raised $65,000 in donations at the meeting, with $30,000 designated specifically for ICA.


Located in L.A.’s Skid Row, one of the most socioeconomically challenged communities in the United States, ICA immerses its students in a supportive environment where they engage in visual and performing arts forms in studio and theater settings.


“We work to create a safe space where students can experience creative fun,” Kirsch said. “When your emotional core is in stress and experiencing trauma, the thinking brain can’t work. You’re not thinking to your fullest capacity.”


During the school day, after school and on weekends, elementary, middle and high school students come to ICA to work with professional teaching artists in well-equipped studios, receiving hands-on instruction in a range of subject areas within the visual, performing and media arts.


But ICA knew it wasn’t enough to work with the children in their program; they needed to educate teachers and school administrators on the importance of bringing the arts into their own schools.


“I had to justify why this was important and look at how we could provide a transformative impact on large public schools,” Kirsch said. She researched the burgeoning field of neuroeducation to be able to articulate why the arts are so critical in the schools.


What she found was being involved in the arts can boost critical thinking, encourage self-reflection and increase collaboration. “It’s good for the soul and the whole human being,” she said.


The Inner-City Arts Professional Development Institute provides experiential training for educators, university students, school administrators and others dedicated to bringing high-quality arts education to students of all ages and backgrounds.


“We work with teachers so they are able to apply creative practices in the classroom,” Kirsch said.


To get involved, go to: mdrtfoundation.org



SUPPORTING ARTS AROUND THE WORLD

In addition to this year’s support of Inner-City Arts, the MDRT Foundation has partnered with several other arts organizations in recent years.

In 2015, a $10,000 Worldwide grant was awarded to Cambodian Living Arts’ project Community Careers in the Arts, which seeks to provide arts education that develops into students pursuing careers in those fields.

That goal extends to the economic and social contributions made by the work created in these jobs, and the example set for generations to come. The project strives to train young artists as leaders in their communities and foster small businesses and professional troupes.

It comes at a particularly important time in the country, when a very high percentage of the population is younger than 25 and thus in a position to drastically impact their homeland’s future based on how they spend the next few decades. Through professional development and resources, young artists gain the support needed to overcome the economic challenges that limit arts education and convert their creative passion into careers.

Cambodian Living Arts was created to counteract the country’s struggling connection to the arts and its own artistic identity, and it helped influential artists and teachers acquire instruments and rent teaching spaces. From there, many teachers were recruited, inspiring more than 1,000 artists.

In addition, in 2017 the MDRT Foundation gave a $1,000 Worldwide grant to help the Bata Shoe Museum participate in Step Ahead, an arts education program for disadvantaged children in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The program has served nearly 7,000 students since beginning in 2009. Through Step Ahead, students gain access to arts education they otherwise would not experience. At the museum, visitors gain an understanding of how footwear impacts culture. With more than 1,000 students turned away annually from the museum due to lack of funding, the grant expands the number of young people who can attend the museum and participate in the Step Ahead program.

Through subsidized field trips and after-school programs, Step Ahead connects kids with the arts, with the goal of providing access for 2,000 students each year.

 

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