By Jonathan E. Coleman
Devin Kirkpatrick is a living example of the impact exposure to the arts can have in the life of a child. In 2005, then a 14-year-old teenager, Kirkpatrick lived without much guidance, her life headed down a bad path. After being taken under her aunt’s wing, Kirkpatrick was steered toward Multicultural, a Christan-based nonprofit dance group that teaches values as well as dance.
“I was a troubled teen,” Kirkpatrick told a group of nearly 700 community members at the 7th Annual Cabarrus Arts Council Breakfast for the Arts on Friday. “Multicultural helped me express myself.”
In the years since joining the dance team, Kirkpatrick has performed at public gatherings, developed lasting relationships with her dance partners and righted the path that defined her youth. Now a senior at South Rowan High School, she plans to attend UNC Charlotte in the fall.
“When you are exposed as a child to something special, something beautiful can be created,” Cabarrus County Schools’ Superintendent Barry Shepherd told the crowd, adding how much of an impact Cabarrus Arts Council programs have made for students under his direction.
Through programming in schools and public event spaces, the Arts Council reached nearly 30,000 area students and almost 300,000 people overall last year. The nonprofit also offers grants — amounting to nearly $50,000 last year alone — to community groups, like Multicultural, that support the arts.
“The Arts Council is about making your lives good — about touching the heart and soul of children and giving you something to look forward to,” said Arts Council Executive Director Noelle Rhodes Scott. “Art is part of survival. It is part of the human spirit. It is essential to who we are.”
But essential to the survival of programs like those the Arts Council provides are the donations provided by community supporters.
In fact, nearly 44 percent of the Arts Council’s $443,000 operating budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year was raised through individual and corporate donations.
Eighty-five percent of that money goes directly back into programming efforts, according to Dan Boone, the fund drive chairperson for Thursday’s event.
For that reason, Scott said, events like Thursday’s fundraiser are an important part of both spreading the word about what role the group plays in the community, but also for soliciting support to continue to build Cabarrus’ art community.
“The economic crisis is impacting everyone,” she said. “So what do we do? Do you stop supporting groups, and do we as nonprofits just close our doors?
Of course not.
“The arts are so intrinsic to our nature that we need to become aware of them. We don’t see how vital the arts are to our lives until we stop and take notice.”
With stories like Kirkpatrick’s, whose life was chaged for the better through her experience made possible by Arts Council grants, it seems almost certain increasing numbers of people will soon be taking notice.
• Contact Managing Editor Jonathan E. Coleman: 704-789-9105.