Values Deep Dive | Curiosity (Part 1)
by Bets Charmelus, ArtistYear CEO
Over the next few months, I’d like to initiate a series of blog posts that delves into my thoughts connected to ArtistYear’s four core values: Curiosity, Creativity, Community, and Service. ArtistYear didn’t casually select its core values. We really thought about what matters to us, the artists that decide to serve, the students and school we serve and our other stakeholders. The purpose of this series is to illuminate my perspectives on our values and to share what comes to my mind when discussing them.
For no reason in particular, I’d like to start with CURIOSITY. In the spirit of offering further resources, here’s an offering from author and educator Jay Gillen to get us started:
“Schools for young people in poverty are marvelously successful at teaching about the scarcity of resources, arbitrariness of authority, and shunting of joy to peripheries that characterize the society they are actually growing up into….we hardly need to go out of our way at all to make sure that each caste develops the skills and abilities they will need to perform their caste function….What is difficult is helping the young grow up into a society that does not yet exist.”
Jay Gillen, Educating for Insurgency
Curiosity is essential for making the change we envision in the world. The quote from Educating for Insurgency resonates with this sentiment. It suggests that our present educational system often offers covert and overt lessons to reinforce a status quo. It’s not hard to teach our students about how the world currently is. The real challenge lies in helping the youth envision and prepare for a yet-unseen world.
Curiosity is the ability to see the world as it is, and to wonder “What if…?”, and asking “What if..?” is no joke. For example, 7 years ago, ArtistYear’s founders wondered “What if there was a way to increase access to arts in schools that need it most?” Over 400 artists, 450,000+ hours of creative learning and a couple of hundred schools later, the impact of that question still changes the lives of thousands of students all over the country.
It’s here that I have to make a major acknowledgment: many facets of dominant culture are keen on preventing children, particularly children that are non-white or low-income children (or both) from safely asking “What if…?” This behavior is often seen as a luxury, and the status quo believes it important to nip it in the bud early. From what I’ve seen, it’s dangerous for a Black child to be too curious in this country. Black curiosity can be fatal.
I only bring this up to highlight the importance and privilege of holding such a value. ArtistYear’s organizational values cannot simply be buzz words, but must be ideals that we pursue with fervor, integrity and respect. Our values represent the standard that we hold ourselves to, the criteria we judge ourselves by when reflecting on the authenticity of our actions.
Let’s be curious on purpose.
Bets Charmelus (he/him) is a facilitator, community advocate, and an auditory story-teller. He currently serves as ArtistYear’s Chief Executive Officer. He is passionate about finding & claiming new spaces, building strong, inter-dependent communities, and exploring the difference between questioning oneself and asking oneself questions.