Support a child in finding their artistic voice

We know, as proven in various tragedies that have taken place involving young people, that our schools are not always providing a sense of family for our marginalized kids.  The arts often is the arena in which they find their voice, find their sense of purpose, find a family, and find their pride.

While sports can be a great avenue for some kids to establish their sense of self-worth.  It can help them find friends, learn teamwork and gain pride in themselves and their community.  However, many many kids don’t fit into the sports realm. They may not be inclined to challenging physical activity.  They may not excel, leaving them to feel outcast, ignored, unaccepted, or demeaned. Kids can be cruel.  The team may ridicule the kids who aren’t high achievers in the sport.  In these cases the result of their participation can have the exact inverse result of what involvement was meant to accomplish; that of inclusion, community, achievement.

Churches, synagogues and other religious organizations also are intended to build community, teach life lessons and support the members.  But in many cases, kids don’t identify with the beliefs of the group or haven’t made up their own mind as to what faith, if any, they wish to adopt.  The result can be feelings of disconnection and alienation as they are forced to pretend to feel part of the group while underneath they feel more and more alone.

In many communities, sports and church and school are the only places kids can identify to be part of a community.  When they don’t find that community there, they may feel lost, misunderstood, isolated.  The arts can fill this void.

Arts programs used to be plentiful in our public schools.  Classes and extra-curricular programs in art, music, drama, choir, along with shop classes and more provided places for kids to experiment and express themselves.  Art is individual.  No one creates the same way or the same thing. So there is no standardization. There’s no exact correct answer.  Self-expression of the individual is part of the endeavor and generally supported and praised.  So their sense of accomplishment relies on their own creative work and dedication.  While they all express themselves individually in these cases, they are doing it along with others in a collective way, providing the community they often desperately need.  They find their unique voice.

Additionally, many students are learning English as their second language.  Where the language barrier may make learning standard curriculum more challenging, and standardized testing more difficult, putting them at a disadvantage that can also lead to lower self-esteem, the arts are universal in their success in the form of self-expression.  It creates a level playing field for all involved and even praises their individuality.

So if you have kids yourself, or young extended family or friends who are considering participating in the arts, find ways to encourage them and support them.  For a birthday give them art supplies.  Let them try different things and experiment.  If they find their passion in something help them to develop it, and don’t chastise them if they change their mind a number of times.  Every child is different and only through trying will they know if they enjoy a certain art form.  Also, communicate with school officials your feelings toward the need for arts programs in our schools.

Patrick Spike as Sipos in 'Parfumerie'

Patrick Spike as Sipos in ‘Parfumerie’ – Bag&Baggage Productions, Dec 2016.

I was a very shy child.  All through school I was petrified of having to get up in front of the class to do anything.  I had a teacher who recognized this and took the time to ask me if I’d ever considered trying drama.  That one conversation was enough.  She showed an interest in me.  That was all it took.  I decided to sign up for her drama class, ended up trying out for the school play, and my mother was shocked and amazed on opening night to see her shy son up on stage in front of hundreds of people.  She forever after was my biggest fan.  I’d found something that suited me and that I could be passionate about, as well as a community to be a part of. It brought me out of my shell, developed my confidence and self-esteem and completely changed my life.

Every child has a creative streak somewhere inside of them.  It may be working with wood, or on cars, or with a paintbrush or an instrument. Help them find it.  Support it.  Nurture it. They will be better for it.

—–

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

 

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com

 

You’ll never make a living as an artist

My parents would tell me, as a child, that I could be anything I wanted to be.  While encouraging, that’s not entirely realistic as demonstrated by my first selection for future career.  When my mother one day asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I said I wanted to be a midget.  I think that started my life long pattern of tending to choose a more unusual option at every opportunity.  But then when I discovered theatre in high school, it became my new greatest interest and future passion.  As high school was coming to an end, my father told me that I could never make a living doing theatre and that I should study computers instead.  So much for “be anything.”

When I went to college I started out planning to major in theatre and minor in psychology (along with one computer class).  Psychology was the only other area of study I could think of that interested me at all.  Surely that might be a more lucrative career option of theatre didn’t work out.  But I still struggled.  I was doing well in school… a very expensive private school mind you, but I still had the feeling all the time that I was taking classes and my parents were paying all this money and yet I still wasn’t sure.  I wasn’t sure that I was making the right decision, and at the time that decision seemed like it was so important and so final in a way.  So I ended up deciding to take a break from college and work for a while with a plan to return to college later when I’d figured it out.

I expected my parents to be really upset at this decision.  With the divorce court having decided what percentage of my school costs each parent would have to pay, my father actually seemed rather happy.  He pointed out quickly that if I took this break that he was no longer obligated to pay for my college.  My mother was worried what it meant for my future, but supported me in the decision.

This is my personal example of the struggle I think many artists go through trying to figure out if they can pursue their interest and talent.  Am I talented enough?  Can I make a living at this, or is it just a silly unrealistic dream?  What is the path I should be taking if I do really want to try to do this?  On and on.

For me, my father’s words were always in my head… that I’d never make a living doing theatre.  He’s fairly correct in that regard.  The number of theatre artists actually making a reasonable living doing what they love is extremely slim.  So I never gave it my full effort and energy. I never ran off to NYC or LA to try to make a go of it as a starving artist.  Instead I satisfied my passion doing it on the side with a regular day job at the same time.  Also, I have been lucky enough to work around and with theatre organizations through most of my career, having jobs that support the arts in various ways.  But there likely will always be part of me that wonders if I could have made it my life’s work if I’d really taken the leap; taken the chance to try it and potentially fail.

It’s a sad thing that our culture doesn’t value and support the artists the way it does a doctor, a lawyer, an executive.  Every one of us enjoys the work of artists in nearly every moment of our lives.  Graphic designs in magazines, on book covers, on billboards.  The actors we see in movies and on tv, and the thousands of people behind the scenes making those programs happen.  The music we hear on the radio, or as a jingle in a commercial.  The design of buildings and cars.  These are all just examples of art surrounding our lives. Yet we make it incredibly difficult for young people with a creative spark and talent to pursue an artistic career, and offer little hope of that career being financially rewarding.  Why is this the case?  Why don’t we as a society realize that art and artists are integral to our economy, to our enjoyment of life, to shaping our daily experience?  We continue to beat it down as a frivolous pursuit in school, while sports are not?  We discourage our kids to follow their passion and potentially shine, and instead funnel them into the mainstream with all the others to be one of the many.   Why?

Perhaps it’s fear; fear that our kids will fail and we don’t want them to suffer the heartbreak and embarrassment.  Maybe it’s what we’ve been taught; that success is defined by money and a job title and position that impresses others.  Whatever the reason, those that actually break through and become the artist they want to be have to do it despite the stigma and lack of understanding and support.  This is something we should work to change.  We need to recognize the work of artists as highly valuable.  We need to encourage kids who develop artistic passion and talent to pursue it completely.  We need to support the potential artists just as we do potential accountants, potential business managers, potential engineers.  Without the artists, what would our world look like?  Our clothing, the decor in our homes that enrich our daily lives, everything.  What a bland and boring world that would be.

—–

Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts People

 

Patrick Spike is the Theatre Community Liaison, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. www.patrickspike.com

 

 

Make Giving Tuesday count for your chosen charities

Giving Tuesday has become a very real “thing” along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is a day where we emphasize the need to give to the charity organizations that matter to each of us.

The fact that most charities rely heavily on individual giving from people like you and me, along with grants, corporate sponsorship, and in the case of performing arts, ticket and other sales, can be seen as a wonderful thing. If we think about it, it’s easy to recognize how this benefits our community. The deep connections forged between the charity organizations and the individuals within the community helps lift up those charities that community members really believe in. Not unlike a business succeeding because its products or services are loved, a charity that survives well based on the support of its community is a testament to the great work that charity is doing FOR its community. If the people didn’t believe in its mission and its methods, it simply wouldn’t survive.

So as we focus at this time on our gratitude for all the things that touch and enrich our lives, let’s remember and be thankful for the charities that do great work. Some are benevolent. Some are creative. They bring happiness, support, relief, joy, comfort and are worthy of our gifts too. Choose the charities that you believe in most and give as much as you can to support the work that they do. It takes us all to make a rich and caring community. We must support each other all we can.

The Arts People system charges no fees for use of its donation processing and tracking system, along with membership functionality. Only standard credit card processing rates apply. Donation options can easily be featured on your website, Facebook page, in email messages and more. Contact your support rep for any assistance in launching your web page or other fundraising campaigns, or contact us for a free demo of the system. We’d be happy to speak with you.

Arts People supports funding for the Arts – Save the NEA

Executive Producer Jonathan Estabrooks, Producers Michael J Moritz Jr. and Charlie Rosen and Broadway Records President Van Dean have launched the charitable initiative, Artists for The Arts. The initiative gathered an all-star roster of theater, pop, film, dance, spoken word and more artists to record the new benefit single, “A Little Help From My Friends,” with film by Jason Milstein and Fuzz on the Lens Productions and produced at Avatar Studios. Nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts, the pre-eminent national advocate for the arts and arts education and leader of the fight to #SAVEtheNEA, will receive all net proceeds from the sale of the single. Read more about the project in Billboard.