The Fieldstone Foundation hosted Chip Heath, bestselling author and faculty at Stanford University, on April 24 to present his latest book titled: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Before writing this book, Chip Heath worked with members of our Leadership Network from San Diego and Orange Counties to help think through and validate his research framework. In addition, our collaboration with Chip led to the profile of Matt D’ Arrigo, a Fieldstone Leadership Network member from San Diego, ED and founder of A Reason to Survive, to be featured as one of the cases in the book. For more information on the book, you can go to: http://heathbrothers.com/books/decisive/
A 19-year-old named Inocente recently made movie history when she became the subject of a film that won the Oscar for best documentary short. The eponymous movie follows Inocente life on the streets of San Diego where she struggles to become a painter.
For Inocente, who is almost always seen the film with her own art painted on her face, salvation comes in the form of an upcoming art show for which she spends much of the documentary preparing. Thankfully, Inocente is a student of the San Diego nonprofit A Reason To Survive (ARTS), through which she finds both the means and materials to practice her art.
Since 1992, ARTS has provided San Diego underprivileged children with arts programs and education, and college and career preparation. Founded by Matt D’Arrigo, ARTS has evolved from its initial arts resources program at the Ronald McDonald House to a full service arts agency for youth that is constantly expanding its reaches, most recently with a brand new headquarters.
We’ve recently moved into a new 20,000-square-foot facility in National City, says D’Arrigo. With the help of a grant from Supervisor Greg Cox, we’ve recently opened a new Industrial Arts Department, which will focus on woodworking, carpentry, and fabrication. The new facility consists of two buildings. One will be dedicated to performance — dance and theatre. Another studio space will be dedicated for fashion — textiles, sewing, jewelry.
ARTS’ programs are not just relegated to one zip code, however. Under D’Arrigo leadership, ARTS is now undertaking community beautification projects all over San Diego.
We’ve recently partnered with the San Diego Foundation and Pomegranate Center to take these projects to a whole new level, explains D’Arrigo. We’re taking abandoned and forgotten open spaces in communities and having our youth work with the community, designers, landscape architects, artists, and urban planners, to recreate them into beautiful gathering spaces for the community. Our first one, Butterfly Park in National City, will be completed on April 22.
It is programs such as these that helped Inocente bring her own works to the public, and ultimately the Academy Awards. Says D’Arrigo of their night in Los Angeles: Never in my wildest dreams did I think a documentary on a student at ARTS would win an Oscar. When the announcement was made we all jumped and screamed with joy. That was quickly followed by lots of tears. We all went out to celebrate at the Vanity Fair party afterwards. It was packed with stars and they all loved Inocente. She was walking around with the Oscar and everyone was congratulating her, kissing her, giving her advice. It was amazing.
Now, Inocente has obtained citizenship for herself and her family, and through ARTS and its affiliates, has obtained the necessary copyrights for her works and her story. But many other underprivileged children are still in need of the programs offered by ARTS, and so over the next year, the new facility will double as a training center for educators to bring art programs to children on a grander scale.
We are looking to begin training, coaching, and consulting individuals, organizations, and communities in the work we do, says D’Arrigo. That how we see scaling our program nationwide. We will also be taking more of a leadership role in advocacy and awareness.
Though the Oscar win has brought national light to the organization, D’Arrigo says they’re not waiting by the mailbox for checks to roll in. They have longterm goals in place that they are still endeavoring to reach, and people wishing to help are encouraged to contact the organization. But for now, Incocente story is proof that ARTS is making a difference, and will continue to do so for San Diego youths. (619. 297.2787,www.areasontosurvive.org) RYAN THOMAS
“Inocente” Won In The Short Documentary Category And Is The Story Of How The “A Reason to Survive” Arts Nonprofit Impacts Homeless Youth
When the filmmaking team of Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine won the Oscar for documentary short with “Inocente” on February 24, 2013, they highlighted the enormous impact of a southern California arts nonprofit. “A Reason to Survive,” a National City-based organization dedicated to bettering the lives of homeless youth (and a Creating Public Value grantee), is significantly highlighted in the film.
“The film follows a homeless, undocumented immigrant teenage girl in San Diego as she relentlessly pursues her dream of becoming an artist,” notes the LA Times in a post-Oscar wrap-up. “With heart and wit, the film explores the issue of homelessness among youth while also capturing the power of art and ambition.”
So … when A Reason to Survive notes on its webpage that it “believes that the visual, performing, and literary arts can literally transform lives – especially those of kids,” there’s now an Oscar-winning film to support that belief.
Kudos from the California Arts Council to the filmmakers, to A Reason to Survive staff and supporters, and a special shout-out to all the youth and others whose lives have been transformed through guts, determination, spirit, and the arts.
See more at here.
The big winner at Sunday night’s Academy Awards was arts education. In two key moments, a spotlight was shone on the important role the arts play in children’s lives.
At the end of the broadcast, there was the wonderful statement of support by First Lady Michelle Obama. She said, “They are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams.”
But before the First Lady’s surprise appearance, there was another big moment for arts education during the Best Documentary Short category. The winning film, Inocente, is the story of a 15-year-old girl who refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be stifled by her life as an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years.
Inocente was introduced to the arts through a program in San Diego called ARTS | A Reason To Survive, which uses therapeutic arts programming, arts education, and college & career preparation to create pathways to success for youth facing adversity. Founder Matt D’Arrigo is a member of Americans for the Arts and we featured his programs in our December 2012 edition of the Monthly Wire, our member newsletter.
The following video from San Diego’s ABC affiliate shows the arc of events for Inocente—starting homeless, then participating in ARTS’ programs, all the way up to production of the documentary and standing onstage at the Oscars after Americans for the Arts Artists Committee member Kerry Washington revealed her story as the winning documentary:
Kudos to filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine for the incredible job they did conveying the power of the arts to build resiliency and transform lives.
Thanks to Matt and his team for providing these essential arts programs to youth in San Diego and for sharing this success story with the rest of us!
Inocente Izucar wants to join the circus someday and learn sign language. She paints her face every morning with colors and designs as bold as those on her sprawling canvases. She sometimes orders dessert before dinner because she emphatically believes “you can never go wrong with a root-beer float.”
Yet despite a quiet tenacity, endearing quirkiness and crystal-clear opinions, the teenage Ms. Izucar recently found herself incredulous that a group of young students at an art workshop in the Morrisania section of the Bronx looked up to her.
“They want to be just like me,” Ms. Izucar said in an interview. “I don’t want to be just like me.”
As a child Ms. Izucar moved more than 30 times in nine years — sleeping in crowded quarters beside her three younger brothers under one temporary roof after another, and sometimes even outdoors. Her father was deported to Mexico for domestic abuse. She once stood on a bridge and convinced her mother not to jump. Her art and chronic homelessness are the subject of a short documentary, financed through private donations and grants, that will have its premiere Friday on MTV.
The husband-and-wife directing team of Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine(he also served as cinematographer; she as writer) did not set out to make a film about a homeless teenage artist in San Diego. They planned a more general documentary about homelessness, struck by the statistic that 1 in 45 children in the United States live on the street, in shelters or in motels.
But three years ago they met Ms. Izucar, then 15, with her elaborately decorated face and siren-red Chuck Taylors.
“She had something that was sort of childlike in her vulnerability and innocence and the way she dreamed about waiting for her life to start — as well as a beyond-her-years maturity,” Ms. Fine said.
Added Mr. Fine, “We were taken with her.”
For “Inocente,” which has won awards on the festival circuit, the Fines first spent four days with Ms. Izucar, now 18, getting to know her and making sure she was comfortable being filmed before they turned on the camera. Ms. Izucar said she never felt self-conscious.
“It was a documentary so I didn’t have to act out anything,” she said. “They just followed me around everywhere.”
The directors found Ms. Izucar through ARTS: A Reason To Survive, a nonprofit organization in San Diego that provides therapeutic arts programming and education, as well as college and career preparation to children and young adults dealing with homelessness, domestic violence, illness and other major life challenges.
The place became a refuge for her — from a distant mother; from a school where she was ridiculed for her face paint; and from a nomadic existence.
When Ms. Izucar first walked into ARTS at the age of 12 — in her rainbow tutu and high-top sneakers — its founder, Matt D’Arrigo, immediately saw that she had promise. “She’s exactly the kind of person I created this program for,” he said.
Ms. Izucar was selected for the program’s annual art show and given three months to produce 30 pieces, a process the film follows. Over time Ms. Izucar said her work has evolved. “It’s gotten cleaner,” she said. “It still comes from the heart. Every painting has a story.”
The producers — Yael Melamede and Shine Global, a nonprofit production company dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of children through films — said Ms. Izucar embodied the many issues they wanted to address: homelessness, immigration, undocumented children and arts education.
Shine has collaborated with the directors before — on the 2007 Oscar-nominated documentary feature “War/Dance,” about children from war-torn Uganda who aspire to win their national music competition. (Ms. Melamede was a producer of the 2003 Oscar-nominated film “My Architect,” about Louis Kahn.)
Because “Inocente” is just 40 minutes, the producers hope it will be shown in museums and libraries and that it becomes part of school curriculums, accompanied by art workshops and discussions.
Ms. Izucar has participated in several postscreening workshops recently, like the one in the Bronx this month at DreamYard Project, an arts education program and school.
Yet despite the power of her work and personality, Ms. Izucar is diminutive, soft-spoken and shy. “I don’t like all the attention — it’s just not my thing,” she said. “I like to be alone.”
It was perhaps inevitable that the film would change Ms. Izucar’s life. In addition to earning money from odd jobs, she is now able to support herself on her paintings, which sell for $25 to $5,000 apiece. At a New York art show of her work this month — held at the Tribeca Grand Hotel and organized by Ryan Brooks, one of the film’s executive producers — 24 of 30 paintings sold, along with 25 prints.
“I feel like they’re overpriced,” Ms. Izucar said, “especially because I like to give paintings away.”
About six months ago she rented her own small apartment, where she paints and lives. It is the first time she has been able to unpack.
“I have all my plates, I have all my paints — I know where everything is in my house,” Ms. Izucar said. “It’s an interesting feeling, not having everything in boxes.”
Ms. Izucar has no desire to take art classes. “I don’t feel like I want to learn the right way or the wrong way,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Who’s van Gogh? Picasso? Who’s that?’ It’s embarrassing because everyone knows except me. I know friends’ artwork, but not really old, expensive art. I don’t understand art. I never will.”
Toward the end of Ms. Izucar’s New York stay — which began with her first time on a plane — it was clear that the trip had taken a toll. “I think 10 days was a little too much for me,” she said.
Besides, she was eager to return to the rabbit she recently adopted, an albino named Luna, “because she’s pure white like the moon.”
Rabbits live about 10 years, she said, so she will have to put off joining the circus or going anywhere else, for that matter: Ms. Izucar is determined to give her new bunny a stable home.
“I want to stay in one place,” she said. “I’ve never stayed in one place for more than three months.”