Now More Than Ever
- By Mari Ma
“Now more than ever, every young person in America needs access to arts education and an opportunity to cultivate the next generation of citizen-artists,” said the Voice of God announcer at the Service Year Alliance event in New York City. The kick-off event was dedicated towards inspiring and realizing 1 million service year positions annually. The Voice of God statement rings especially true in light of recent national news, with fears that many of our nation’s educational and cultural programs might loose funding. But I am proud to say that I am one out of many of concerned citizen. I truly believe that the Arts can connect everyone at the core, as human beings, regardless of race, culture, gender, generation, religion, or class.
Before I started my year as an Artist Year Fellow, I already knew the impact the Arts can have on saving lives. It saved mine. But what I was not completely aware of is how privileged I am to have been given the opportunity to learn how to express myself and my world through photography, how to convey emotions with music, or how to develop empathy via theatre. This is the reason why I felt compelled to share my story on stage at the Service Year Alliance event, to share my service year goal to empower students to take ownership of their own work. I have already learned so much since the start of my service year at Mastery Charter School Harrity Upper. I will always have this impactful personal and professional experience with me as I move forward throughout the rest of my year and life. Being in a tight knit community of teachers, parents, and students who work together to heal during difficult and dire times has made me realize my role as a citizen-artist: My mission should not solely be to engage my students to learn about the arts and how they can express themselves and understand other points of view. It is also my duty to be an active member of my school’s community, to help promote the building of relationships and to increase understanding between individuals through the Arts. I can think of no other vehicle to better facilitate this amazing work.
While I whole heartedly support the statement made by the Voice of God announcer at the event, I have subsequently made my own revision: “Now more than ever, every person in America needs access to an artistic outlet to improve communication and bridge the divides that our country is facing, all the while cultivating the next generation of citizen-artists who will understand and leverage the constructive roles of artists within their community”
Mari Ma is currently an ArtistYear Drexel Fellow at Mastery Charter School Harrity Upper teaching photography to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The photographs are credited with thanks to Mari.