Earlier this week, the NEA made a case for using arts to build more connected communities at their live-streamed event “Healing, Bridging, Thriving: A Summit on Arts and Culture in our Communities.”
New York City Children’s Theater is no stranger to the ability of art to gather seemingly disparate groups into a shared experience. In our fall production of ¡CORRÉ, ABUELITA, RUN! we watched children in all five boroughs join hands and elbows to create a bridge sturdy enough for a puppet Abuelita to complete her marathon. Our Music and Theater for Multilingual Learners, Literature At Play residencies bring children who don’t even speak the same language into the process of writing songs and scripts together, and build creativity, connection and community in the process.
At the NEA summit, Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy – who has spoken publicly about the deleterious effects of loneliness on public health – described arts as a means of fertilizing the spirit of our communities. “Creativity” he said “is a muscle.” We all have it and, like all muscles, when we use it, it gets stronger. He went on to say that the connectedness arts provide is among the most healing therapies for young people, who report experiencing loneliness at rates more than double those of older adults. “I’ve prescribed a lot of medicines as a doctor over the years.” He said “There are few I’ve seen that have that kind of extraordinary, instantaneous effect.” Soprano Renée Fleming echoed Dr. Murthy’s sentiments, calling art “the antidote to isolation” and lauding arts education as a tool which makes children become pro-social and boosts teachers’ morale.
We are proud to offer children across New York City the freedom to flex their creative muscles and build resilience to the damaging effects of feeling isolated. It is the reason we choose stories and artists that offer young people opportunity to see characters that look and sound like themselves in our productions and education programs. It is the driver of carefully scaffolded interactive interludes in our stage and touring shows that give children the chance to participate in creating the next moment of a story or scene. It is the promise of the trauma-informed pedagogy that underpins every program we bring to a classroom, community center, or shelter.
With every production and arts-in-education program we deliver, New York City Children’s Theater builds playgrounds for creativity. It is our hope that even after we have exited a school or a family has left the theater, creativity continues to romp and chase and spin across those playgrounds and that the children who wield it begin to recognize that the world is a brighter, more forgiving, less lonely place when it does.
Thank you for sharing that hope with us.
Thank you for all the ways you help us serve New York City’s children. We cannot do it without you.