These smaller interactions [with children] evidenced to me the crucial role of artistic process for fostering confidence and community.
During my time interning for Free Arts this summer, I have had the opportunity to move between development and programs. This meant focusing on fundraising data, events, and other administrative work Monday through Thursday, and ending each week at Slauson Multipurpose community center to assist with one of Free Arts’ mentorship programs.
Having gone into this internship with little exposure to non-profit work, both of these roles offered respective challenges and ample learning opportunities. Working in development arguably entailed newer tasks– learning a database and becoming familiar with a higher level understanding of how a 501c3 operates. Nevertheless, I found my position as a development intern most rewarding when it overlapped with programs and other interfaces within the organization.
Returning to Slauson every Friday for seven weeks, I was able to witness some of the transformations engendered by the mentorship program. One of the more observable tenets of this process was the shift in the kids enthusiasm and engagement with the projects. A couple weeks in, I noticed kids reiterating messages to one and other that we had initially presented. Whether this was how to be patient with a material, to keep making things in spite of proposed “mistakes”, or how to trace your silhouette from your shadow. These smaller interactions evidenced to me the crucial role of artistic process for fostering confidence and community. While we as volunteer mentors helped facilitate space for creative and personal exploration without stakes, hearing the members of Slauson continue to artistically encourage one and other on their own accord exemplified to me the lasting impact of this facilitation.
My time assisting at Slauson and occasionally assisting the courthouse program gave faces and voices to the development work conducted behind the scenes. It was one thing to read Free Arts’ mission and understand it intellectually, and another to witness what it looked and felt like when it is realized in its diverse modalities. And I found in the day-to-day, that it is realized in smaller ways–both behind the scenes and in the field.