Open call: Christina Cultural Arts Center proves arts are essential to healthy community
As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our collective village at Christina Cultural Arts Center has adopted an attitude that directs us to ‘'weather the storm’' until we hit our distant shores.
While we may not have hit an iceberg and sank, we recognize that there is still water in our vessel, but we are collectively manning our buckets to assure our craft is prepared to continue to sail.
Like most organizations, when the pandemic hit, Christina had previously mapped out a destiny that would propel us into at least the next year, possibly beyond.
Armed with a mission of “changing the trajectory of children’s lives through arts education, live performances, career pathways and gallery exhibitions,” we had to abruptly shift our course and navigate the challenges and obstacles that come with most storms.
Heavy winds directed that we briefly pivot our focus and concentrate on areas that addressed challenges that were more prominent for our families. These issues included but were not limited to: food, housing, clothing, closing the digital divide and most importantly, attacking the myriad of mental health issues head-on.
The pandemic, followed by the economic strains and then the chronic social trauma highlighted by the brutal killing of George Floyd and others, brought with it an enormous mental strain that in some arenas still haven’t been addressed. Through our S.E.R.V.I.C.E. (Social Emotional Response to the Vast Inequities Caused by Epidemics) initiative, Christina moves swiftly to align families in our communities with free mental health counseling provided by seven licensed clinicians — free of charge.
To date, through generous grants from DuPont and the Gilliam Foundation, we have been able to provide over 50 combined individual and group counseling sessions with several sessions still available to the general public.
As the pandemic is making its way further beyond our charted course, while remaining cognizant of the ever-present health and safety challenges, we can emphatically feel and embrace the different winds.
Since the fall of 2020, our enrollment in our School of the Arts has increased; our programs are expanding; we continue to provide exhibition space for our local and regional artists; we continue to schedule quality performance programming for the upcoming seasons including a partnership with the City of Wilmington and the 2021 Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, our annual Carols in Colors holiday program, and most importantly, we continue to change the trajectory of children’s lives.
Christina remains committed to addressing the social challenges our students and families face by providing arts-centered alternatives to the vices they face daily.
Through our “Our Voices’ and ‘HeArt Under the Hoodie’ programs, we are teaching our students to shoot cameras – not guns; we are teaching them to beat on drums – not on each other, in particular women; and we are teaching them how to act out on stages and not in their classrooms or communities. We are teaching them to sing as if everyone is watching and to dance as if they were performing in a Broadway production.
There is something about music, arts, dance, drama, literature that has a way of stirring our emotions, touching a heartstring, and recollecting a moment in time that possibly stood still. Think about your favorite song or poem and what it does to your soul? Think about your favorite movie or live play and how it made you laugh cry or do both?
No matter what the industry, genre, ethnic background, creed, religious preference, storm or pandemic, we all are constantly creating the ‘soundtracks” of our lives by embracing the arts. Music is that universal language that has a way of bringing people together and art is often referred to as the “expressive or application of human creative skill or imagination.”
For this reason and others, Christina Cultural Arts Center continues to be an advocate for increased funding for arts-related industries. Often seen as the stepbrother or sister when it comes to major funding, our statistics and analytics are demonstrating on a number of fronts the impact that arts have on student scholastic performance, the development of our early childhood scholars and how the arts encourage hope and passion over despair.
Arts-related performances and activities assist our communities in attracting tourists which grows economies; art forges relationships among cultures by encouraging tolerance, and art provides physiological and psychological benefits that go well beyond any organizations bottom line while addressing the traumas caused any number of social, political or economic conditions.
Arts-related organizations like the Christina Cultural Arts Center need your support and your voice.
James “Ray” Rhodes is executive director of Christina Cultural Arts Center.