During a cold winter weekend in January 2013, I was on the phone with the Realtor who helped me secure our current location for Clarion Center for the Arts. My college best friend and I were in our hotel room where we attended our region's Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. As a college Sophomore pursuing my 8th-grade dream of opening a performing arts center, so many incredible things were happening in my life... but at KCACTF, I was introduced to an organization that would play a profound role in my journey.
Artists Striving to End Poverty, or ASTEP, was founded by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who wanted to use her gifts as an artist to "transform the lives of youth." Over the years, and with the collaboration of many other Juilliard students, ASTEP has become a driving force in NYC, our country and the world for using the arts to make a difference.
ASTEP defines poverty as the lack of choice. They work with youth in NYC, Florida, India and South Africa who have been affected by homelessness, violence, systemic poverty and HIV/AIDS, using art to bring them hope and discover the power they have to rise above their current station.
Included in their efforts to help these kids, ASTEP also manages the ASTEP Leaders Network, a conglomerate of ASTEP chapters, workshops and their annual Artist As Citizen Conference.
After attending the Artist As Citizen Conference in 2017, my admiration of ASTEP and desire to be a part of their movement was even more strongly solidified. Now, I am excited to announce that Clarion Center for the Arts has been approved as an ASTEP Chapter for Clarion County!
As an ASTEP Chapter, we will be required to host a Community Arts Project once a year. These projects will be geared toward getting our community involved with the arts and highlighting the importance of arts education.
In partnership with ASTEP, we will also be focusing all of our donation drives toward this incredible organization. Since year one, we have been selecting a different non-profit organization to support by creating dances that bring awareness to the organization's cause and raising money for them. In 2017, we also started donating 3% of everyone's enrollment fee to our selected organization. While we will continue to focus on different causes each year to bring awareness to important social issues, our 3% donation and donation drives will now support ASTEP. I hope this will give us all a chance to witness the impact of our financial gifts and watch the progress of our efforts.
I hope to find more ways to partner with ASTEP, whether it's through getting a group together to volunteer with their NYC, Florida or even International efforts, or sending students and teachers to their Artist As Citizen Conference. Joining the movement as an ASTEP Chapter will provide us with resources and support to use the arts to make a difference in even more meaningful ways. Thank you so much to everyone who encourages us here at Clarion Center for the Arts. Your contributions will now not only benefit the kids in our community but kids from around the world, too.