February 20, 2018
Hi, my name is James Halliday, and in January I began as Executive Director of A Reason To Survive (ARTS). Our mission is to empower young people to reach their full potential through the trans-formative and therapeutic power of the arts. As a nonprofit based in National City, ARTS is committed to realizing that mission, while also serving the community to become a safe, inclusive, and healthy place where the next generation can flourish. It’s a bold vision, and we’ve got a great deal of work ahead of us. So here’s to fresh beginnings!
I’m excited to be here, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that — one month in — I haven’t figured it all out yet. What I do know is that the greatest learning on the job I’ve had thus far has come from spending time with colleagues and the young people who know ARTS best. A few weeks ago we went on field trip to International Friendship Park at the border for a unique bi national concert. The San Diego Symphony performed John Luther Adams’ piece Inuksuit. Besides the fascinating music and arrangement, it was a beautiful day at the beach:
I also know that while I’m picking up the story of ARTS mid-page, the organization is ready to begin a new chapter. And it will be with and through these colleagues, young people, and with the support of partners, volunteers, and donors that ARTS will not only survive, but thrive again.
Today, ARTS is in a period of transition. After years of leadership under its founding director, Matt D’Arrigo, we are in a rebuilding process. We must breathe new life into our fantastic 20,000 sq ft space, our programs, our partnerships, and re-connect with the families and youth in the community. With a staff of 3, our current capacity is far smaller than it’s been in the past, but we’re contracting teaching artists and resuming youth programming at the end of this month.
I’m very happy with the steps we’re taking. To keep up this momentum, I’m asking for your support:
To build our resource base – beyond what donors like you contribute! – we’re expanding our Board of Directors and deepening our relationships with the business community of National City and across the county. To improve our overall impact, we’re working with student interns and cultivating new partnerships in order to bolster ARTS programming and the quality of student services we offer. It takes a village, as they say.
Turning to the big vision for ARTS, here are some priority areas that I’m excited about:
  • Creating a youth council that empowers our young people to raise their voices, recognize their agency, cultivate their identities, while fostering a sense of ownership in their community
  • Establishing the ARTS Center as a regional hub for creative youth development, where multiple organizations and individuals work and collaborate under one roof to the benefit of the people and communities we serve
  • Collaborating with community and business partners, along with our public sector champions, to build a local talent pipeline into opportunities and careers in theregional creative economy

One of my favorite programs is Young Artists in Harmony, in collaboration with the Art of Elán. Here’s a photo of two of our students, Marco and Vanja, along with Deejay and Diego, two former ARTS students who have become teaching artists, following their smashingly successful performance at the San Diego Art Institute on January 30th

We’ve got more awesome events coming soon. Sneak peak: On March 30th, we’re excited to be hosting the La Jolla Playhouse’s POP Tour production of Home of the Brave, a performance that tells the stories of youth from military families about growing up (and moving all over the world). There’s a significant active military and veterans community in National City and across the South County, so as part of our community engagement we’ll be hosting a special reception before the performance.

I could go on and on about the great things happening again at ARTS. For now, I’ll leave you with this: The work we’re doing is vital. Everyday, we see the power of the creativity to lift lives and build self-confidence in young people. In the future, I look forward to sharing more of these stories. To catlayze our work, please consider donating right now:

I hope this finds you well, and l look forward to welcoming you at ARTS very soon.
With gratitude,