From Elizabeth Whitford, Executive Director
“Now more than ever.” How many times have we heard that in this season’s end of year appeals? I confess I even put it in our appeal letter, and yet it has not sat comfortably with me. It is not that it is not true—it is true—it’s just that while some organizations must make big shifts to respond to the challenges ahead, I woke up to a Trump presidency with the unwavering clarity that what Arts Corps needs to do is to stay the course. From long before that day, Arts Corps has been doing the work it needs to do—growing the creativity, resiliency and leadership of low-income youth of color.
Arts Corps’ work is deeply rooted in our commitment to racial and social justice. 4 out of 5 of our students are from low-income families, and 77% are youth of color. Many of our youth are also Muslim, immigrants and/or identify as LGBTQ. These youth have the least systemic access to an arts education and have also long been targets of both systemic oppression and acts of hate. This harmful environment has only heightened, and the landscape of educational funding and priorities that will impact our youth under the Trump administration is of great concern.
Arts Corps programs create a buffer from this oppressive environment—bringing joy, cultural expression and belonging into schools and after school programs—which is essential to the resiliency and development of our youth. Arts Corps programs also foster the creative and critical thinking skills that we know will be needed to address the complex and growing challenges we face now and long into the future.
These are the leaders we need. Witness the power of our youth at Arts Corps’ 2016 Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute through this short documentary made by Arts Corps alumna and Communications Lead, Amy Piñon.
Arts Corps is investing in the creative leadership of today: in young people doing cultural work to create spaces for healing and resistance for themselves and their communities, and in the courageous young people who are at the front lines in our social justice movements, giving us hope for a more just, inclusive and culturally-vibrant future.
I say all of this in the midst of the year-end giving frenzy. There is a lot of noise this year, and I feel unsure about entering it. But I fear that an ironic added impact from Trump’s election is that our annual giving will slump amid all the pressing needs. So I say this: We need your support today. We need it as much as we always have. Please make a year-end gift to Arts Corps, so that we can keep investing in the resiliency and creativity of our current and future young leaders.