Leonard Bernstein wrote:
“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.”
This relates to what we do best at Mizel Museum. We create opportunities for people to break through to new understandings of themselves and the world around them, through the power of the arts. Over the last five years, I have seen widespread evidence of this – something I call “perceptual change.”
One place in which this occurs in concentrated form, is our camp program Creative Journeys. We just completed what I think was our best summer. Five years into the making, we have a devoted team of acclaimed teaching artists who spend five days with young people exploring significant content such as technology, planetary science, stewardship, collaborative decision-making and critical thinking. The camps serve as an incubator of ideas and community-building, with five days of an uninterrupted process that would be severely truncated in a regular classroom. We frequently witness what I call “the zone:” where kids are so immersed and committed to what they are doing, that they don’t want to take breaks. Imagine that! In the heat of a lazy summer!
One of many highlights from this summer was a two-week residency with the award-winning art teacher and visual artist Barth Quenzer. He was joined by visiting artist, Adrian Molina (Molina Speaks) a critically acclaimed poet, performance and recording artist. Their camp, High Octane Creativity Lab, invited kids to develop their capacities to express and innovate through art and writing.
The Mizel Museum was given a significant donation by philanthropist Tom Gamel, who underwrote the attendance of ten campers from underprivileged circumstances. We worked with two admirable organizations, Providence Center for Urban Leadership and Heart & Hand Center, to identify and enroll kids in need. What resulted was a wonderfully diverse group of kids that joined our community, some of them who had never before participated in a camp program, let alone one as unique as this. A couple of the kids were new immigrants from the war-torn country of Congo. I later learned that they lived down the street from me and I was immediately adopted as their “American Mom.”
At the closing ceremony of the camp, something we do every week to showcase for parents the campers’ work, a parent remarked to me, “Look at the diversity of this group and how beautifully everyone’s background and culture is honored; This is the world I want to live in.” I agreed and I think so would the ineffable Leonard Bernstein — enriched, ennobled, encouraged. That is what it’s about.