ACI was born the Summer of 2020 … when the upheaval of the world seemed to have reached its zenith — the global pandemic, racial injustice, social unrest, mistrust and misunderstanding running rampant.
For ten years, I had been studying, writing about, teaching about, and pursuing the answers to my burning question: “Why arts? What is the role of the arts in society? Is there a meaningful purpose?” In other words, I wanted to know if my life-time career in the arts was worth it to humanity as a whole. The answers I found spurred me on as an artist and drove me as an arts educator. My passion, experience, and education in music, theatre, visual art, creative writing, and art history, (and my high value of dance and film!), had led me over the years to develop a long, curated list of all the ways the arts in general and specific art forms benefit us as individuals and as communities. I realized that most artists ask these same questions often, and that non-artists either highly value the arts as good for a community (but often struggle to articulate why) or they consume the arts, while (often loudly) decrying its value.
This pursuit had led me many times down the road towards starting some sort of company, organization, program … something that would help artists see their potential and value the gifts they had been given. I did lead a few projects and was able to witness the powerful effects, but was still waiting for the right idea and the right time to jump in with both feet. And then, the Summer of 2020 showed me that artists just seeing their potential to affect change wasn’t enough; artists needed to be able to ACT, they needed to act NOW, and they needed to know HOW. Artists were needed to bring empathy, to build bridges, to offer a better way.
Through my experiences in theatre, particularly in using interactive forms to facilitate community dialogue on difficult issues and find collaborative community solutions, I had long believed that the possibilities for such work through all of the art forms was possible. Thrilled by the work of so many around the world, but frustrated at the lack of centralized information about them, I wanted to create a center for the celebration, development, and sharing of this type of work, that artists could be inspired, equipped, and involved without having to go out and get a PhD (if they lacked the time or resources) or become an art therapist.
Thus, Awaken Creative Institute was born — to empower arts leaders and give them a framework within which to serve their communities, to encourage them and support them in their work, and to continually provide them with new ideas to try to address the pressing needs around them. The potential is limitless … if you multiply the number of communities around the world, by the number of artists, by the number of community members they encounter, by the number of tough issues they are facing, you get infinity, I’m pretty sure!
So, thanks for joining me in this endeavor. Doing this with you makes it more possible, more effective, and way more fun!
Lesa Brown, Founder