Kathleen Spears, PhD., Community Arts Team Member and Administrative Coordinator, Gary Brackett’s Impact Foundation
Leveling access to and participation in arts and culture is social justice. Any Given Child is social justice. Administrative Coordinator, Gary Brackett’s Impact Foundation
Any Given Child is purely about ensuring access to the arts and arts education for “any given child.” For me, it is about that and more…it is about social justice. Growing up, the only form of art or culture I got to experience was the Gospel Choir at the Missionary Baptist Church I attended every Sunday. What I remember most though, was that the dollar we put in the offering plate meant we would not have milk for that week. Then I remember the soulful and powerful voices soaring high over the organist furiously trying to keep tempo with the women who rocked back and forth and clapped so hard their hands were rough and calloused–that was my art. That was my art world. That was my world. The implications of paying for that art–through our offering contribution–were more memorable than the art itself. And today, that holds true for so many ethnic minority youth. And that is why, to me, Any Given Child equates to social justice.
Still today, even decades later, African-American youth suffer disproportionately from poverty, food insecurity, intracultural crime, and low matriculation rates. Decades later, the value of the African-American life is less than the dollar we struggled to place in the offering plate. Many African-Americans still cannot afford the luxury of art. And the luxury of art is significant, if you consider the fact that youth who have access to–this is different from youth who actually participate–art in any form have a higher quality of life. Youth who participate in arts programming have increased focus, increased self-confidence, and increased self-efficacy. Those are all markers that lead to better educational outcomes, which lead to better jobs that help to level the disparity in poverty rates. Leveling those disparities is social justice. Leveling access to and participation in arts and culture is social justice.
Any Given Child is social justice.
I am passionate about lending whatever ounce of wit, money, energy, time, focus, and thought that this movement will accept because I am passionate about social justice. I want more minorities to experience a world different from mine, a world where art is present and art as a career is an option. One of my sisters is quite a talented visual artist. She would draw pictures that were “picture perfect!” She used to clip those ads in
Parade Magazine in the Sunday paper that read “draw this and send it in and you could be an artist,” and she got applications for art school in return. Art school was not an option. In our household, becoming an artist was not an option. We were disadvantaged in a way that only members of a “protected class” would understand. There simply was never a place for art for me or my family or millions like us. If you had time to draw, you had time to help Mrs. Carter two doors down fold her clothes for a dollar…for the offering plate on Sunday. I am passionate about Any Given Child because I want not one more child to have to worry about the implications of paying for art. Instead, I want them to experience art and all the benefits that come with it! That is social justice. That is Any Given Child.
About the AuthorKathleen N. Spears, PhD, a Pennsylvania native, has been an active member of the Indianapolis community for nearly 8 years. Spears served as president & CEO of the Madame Walker Theatre Center for 18 months after having served the same role at Cancer Support Community Central Indiana for nearly five and a half years.
Voices for Any Given Child Indy is an initiative that gives leaders in the Indianapolis community the opportunity to focus on issues in arts education and in the community, as well as their personal investment in the success of Any Given Child Indy. Be on the look out for new posts from community leaders on anygivenchildindy.org.