Reaching Out… Where it Matters

moniI come from the center of Seattle, birthed of two cultures, with my mother being a refugee from Cambodia and my father being a black man in America. I am not only an artist but first and foremost a mother and secondly an educator and cultural worker.

In my first week as the Teen Programs Co-Coordinator, I found myself riding the bus to do outreach for our teen artist program, when I came across a group of youth I saw, just outside, hanging out with friends. I knew that they probably attended the high school just a few blocks away. They were from the same neighborhood I’m from, so I knew that people rarely ever stopped to talk to them. Even my simple, “hello, how are you?”, brought a puzzled look on their faces, but their eyes became embracing, and warm.

“Nobody ever talks to us. At least not to be nice.”

I asked them what their hobbies were. What they were interested in. What they liked to do.  Every single one of the things they mentioned had something to do with art. None of them were directly connected with any of the community organizations surrounding the area. That is when I realized that accessibility and visibility of art programming, was important. It’s when I realized that I’m exactly where I need to be, when I need to be.

By: Moni Tep