Florida Weekly Column

Arts Inspire Change

Arts Inspire Change

This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers.

by Lydia Black, Executive Director, Alliance for the Arts

Every day I have the pleasure of witnessing the magic of the arts in people’s lives and their transformative power in tackling important social and community issues.  This season alone, I have been inspired by the impact made by many of our artists and community members.

I am inspired by individuals like Harry, an 82-year-old stage 4 colon cancer patient who uses improv and music to laugh away his pain and depression.  Harry didn’t need any scientific studies to show him that the arts are essential to his quality of life and can reduce the depression and anxiety that often comes with chronic diseases; he experienced it and is now committed to sharing his laughter with others.  I share his passion and laughter.

I am inspired and enormously proud of recent NYU graduate and Fort Myers Film Fest award-winning filmmaker Jordan.  Jordan came to the Alliance as a 1st grade summer camper and worked his way up to volunteer, assistant theater manager and summer camp theater director.  Earlier this year he shared how the Alliance and the arts community had played a significant role in his development– he talked about how the arts instilled self-confidence in him, helped him create new friendships, enhanced his public speaking skills and showed him how to collaborate.  I am inspired by how he continues share his love of the arts and its benefits with others.

I am inspired by the generosity of our teaching artists, but one story in particular this season stands outs.  Very recently we were approached by a local family whose daughter is recovering from a traumatic brain injury.  Their daughter was struggling to complete a school project. After one single phone call, an area  teaching artists agreed to meet the family and assist with the project for free.  The family painted and played under the direction of our teaching artist and within four hours the project was completed but, more importantly, the child beamed with pride at what she had accomplished.  I’m inspired by the generosity of spirit at the Alliance and inspired by the determination and pride of the child.

The arts change lives – and they also change communities.  In an effort to quantify the power of the arts and speak about their seismic impact on our world with numbers, we have partnered with the United Arts Council of Collier County to spearhead an Arts & Economic Prosperity study in Lee and Collier counties. The study will provide the necessary tools to explain the importance of the arts – not just through our first-hand accounts but also with tangible numbers and data to back it up.  In 2010 Lee County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $68.3 million in annual economic activity, supported 2,038 full-time equivalent jobs and generated $9.4 million in local and state government revenues.

Thanks to the generosity of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we will be armed with new data that will help our arts community leverage new funding, identify new partners, create stronger relations and, in turn, continue to serve Lee County through the arts.

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

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