Those of us who seek funding (public or private) for work in the creative arts are always faced with an uphill battle of making a case for more creative communities. For starters, our causes compete with the stark realities of child abuse, poverty, and neglect and the organizations advocating and working to stem the bleed from these critical issues. Measuring ourselves against the many others who wish to serve children bound by birthright to drop out of school, fall prey to addiction and head for potential incarceration, creative arts organizations may seem to pale in importance, but we think this is short-sighted.
One of the greatest misconceptions about working with at-risk children is the fundamental way we determine who exactly is at-risk. The truth is, every child is at-risk. Today’s kids are saturated with negative images and stereotypes from the media, their hearts and minds are bought and sold under the influence of advertising. The simple amount of complex information they must consume, digest and process in a single day is in many cases, developmentally impossible. And that’s before you add economic insecurity, the crumbling American dream, threatened families or any myriad of other circumstances to the mix.
How do we measure stability and success for today’s child? Despite our most academic and grass-roots efforts to predict who is who, studies indicate that all children feel more pressure, more inadequate, and more stressed on any given day in America. We keep addressing the systemic causes of failure in children, but have we widened the net enough to encompass who is really suffering? While programs and services that address and target specific problems are a necessary and fundamentally important part of securing a better America for everyone, their tendency to operate in ‘projects’ funded by grants and donations may have a darker side.
What happens when a grant-funded project ends? You wave goodbye to your kids and off they go back to the chaos they came from. Yes, they may have more self-esteem. They may have more skills to cope. They may be (even significantly) stronger than they were before, but at the end of the day, they are still alone. And every parent, educator and administrator knows that alone is a dangerous place for a kid.
MAP is working to show the people with the power of the checkbook that the creative arts can provide continuity of care for our children. It can in fact be a source of job training, self-sufficiency, life skills, creativity and (not least) a home. We ask kids to plant themselves in a place where they can grow and to open their minds and hearts to new feelings and experiences. We believe creative communities are stronger communities and this week we’ll be sharing that on the blog.