Quite a lot can happen in five years. We’ve elected two presidents and a new mayor; seen legislation bring us together and tear us apart; and witnessed riots on the very streets we’d never expect to see them – in our own hometown. And we’ve also seen healing. People coming together. People talking, creating, and working to make Charlotte the honest, welcoming city most all of us want it to be.
It’s been five years since The Arts Empowerment Project began its mission to bring the healing power of art to the lives of children affected by crime and violence. Since its founding, The Arts Empowerment Project has placed hundreds of children in professionally-guided creative, performance, and culinary arts programs, through dozens of partner programs ranging from the Behailu Academy, Central Piedmont Community College, Community School of the Arts, the YWCA of the Central Carolinas, and beyond.
“I am proud of our accomplishments as an organization,” said Natalie Frazier Allen, founder and CEO of The Arts Empowerment Project, “but I’m most proud of the fact that after five years, we are able to continue touching the lives of at-risk children through the arts.”
Students with exposure to the arts in high school are three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than those without an arts experience. Those with weekly exposure to the arts are four times as likely to be recognized for their achievement in the classroom. That’s the simple math on why art matters in the lives of children.
Through their direct participation in the arts, students have learned to express themselves in a healthy, productive way, communicate their feelings, and direct their energy in a meaningful and creative way.
“It’s uplifting… for me to cope with my frustration and my anger, I draw… You get your stress out while you’re here. You don’t have to talk all the time. I make everybody laugh too.”
“I didn’t expect how friendly everybody was. Most people you go to school with are really rude, but [everyone] was actually really nice and considerate. It was funny because they [the staff] were so funny. I felt respected by them.”
“I usually do nothing [during the summer]. I was like, ‘I go to culinary class,’ and everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so lucky.’ They don’t have culinary arts at my school. That sort of opportunity is usually only for certain people unless you went to a really, really good school that has a lot of money.”
“I know that art and the making of art can alter the path of young people who have experienced a breakdown in the family dynamic,” said Artie M. Nicholson Collins, Vice President at PNC Bank, and community funding partner for The Arts Empowerment Project.
Work like that of The Arts Empowerment Project truly takes a village; a village made of partners, sponsors, artists, and volunteers. Through direct donations and the annual New Day fundraising luncheon, The Arts Empowerment Project can continue creating opportunities to connect at-risk and court-involved youth with art.
“We are very grateful to the Charlotte community and our collaborating partners who have supported our vision and mission over the past five years,” added Allen. “Their support speaks volumes about how we can join together to make a difference in the lives of the community of children we serve. Cheers to another five years!”