28 Aug 2019 Gulf Coast Symphony Collaboration Pilots program with Lighthouse of Southwest Florida for Careers in the Arts for Visually Impaired
by Christian Bell, Marketing Manager
Ray Charles, Art Tatum, Stevie Wonder, Andrea Bocelli—these great performers, who are all immediately recognizable for their amazing talent, all dealt with visual impairment. Many singers, pianists, poets, artists, and actors have joined them in breaking down barriers caused by disability. But while we often think of performing as the main career in the arts, there are so many more job possibilities in the field that are also possible for people with visual impairment.
In the past few years, the Gulf Coast Symphony has made it a goal of reaching our community by empowering and employing individuals with visual impairment. The Symphony had employed a sound engineer who is legally blind and worked with one of the top New York based artist managers who was born blind. In the summer of 2018, we partnered with the Lighthouse of Southwest Florida—a local organization dedicated to enabling people of all ages living with visual impairment—to bring on two high school interns who received training in marketing, fund-raising, and arts administration. It is through these experiences that we learned about the unique challenges facing young adults with visual impairments who are transitioning from school to finding a career. From these insights came a continued partnership with the Lighthouse to create a year-long pilot program that will provide employment and training for young adults interested in a career in the arts.
Through the SWFL Community Foundation grant, this program has become a reality, and soon the Symphony will have three new part-time employees from Lighthouse. Our new team members will be provided with salary, transportation, and specialized assistive technology that will enable them to be trained in different arts administration roles. Each of these employees will receive training in marketing, development, concert production, and ticketing. It is our goal to help these young adults get hands-on training and work experience that will help them in their journey to self-sufficiency.
Programs like this are critical for visually impaired young adults, who are at risk of “aging out” of government support systems. We are excited that the Symphony and Lighthouse can help these individuals interested in arts gain the real-world experience and self-sufficiency they need to become fruitful members of the Southwest Florida workforce, and reach for dream careers in the arts. This is a way we can all work together to create community through music.
www.gulfcoastsymphony.org , (239) 277-1700
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle. Funds made available for these grants are graciously given by donors through Field of Interest Funds. Many of these donors are deceased and have left instructions to the Foundation on the causes they care about and then rely on the Foundation team to address the communities’ greatest needs within the established criteria by the donor. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.