Oberlin Center for the Arts builds community through the arts
Posted July 24, 2020 in Articles
Author: Kevin Martin, The Morning Journal
The Oberlin Center for the Arts has been leading the way in building bridges between the arts and the community.
The organization has worked to expand access to the arts, believing that it has an impact on everything it touches.
Headquartered in Oberlin’s historic New Union Center, Oberlin Center for the Arts was established in 2017 and is building the city into an artistic hub, building partnerships within the community.
Supported by the Nord Family Foundation, Oberlin Center for the Arts was tasked with building connections with Oberlin College and arts organizations throughout Lorain County in enhancing community arts education and using the arts as tool for engagement and collaboration.
Serving all of Lorain County, they have connections with more than 70 arts and cultural institutions throughout the area.
Hamm says continuing to invest in the arts supports a significant sector of economic activity in region, including more than 4,000 jobs in Lorain County and $70 million in revenue regionally.
"Like many other industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has left our organizations, institutions and artists shuttered, severely limiting opportunities to connect with and serve community members through normal programming and performances, and forcing the closure of our gathering places like concert halls, theatres and galleries. I’d like community members to envision what life would be like if some organizations are forced to permanently close their doors, and I’d ask that they consider providing support, by any means, to those institutions that have made an impression upon them or their families," he added.
In looking at arts education broadly the magic of the arts has the capacity to teach empathy, tolerance and compassion, concepts Hamm says are deeply needed in the United States at this time.
"A student who receives high quality arts education is also left empowered with a sense of creative resiliency, something they can call upon through their life during times of challenge, hardship or opportunity. I don’t feel we should be stuck having a conversation about “whether or not” we invest in the arts, but moreover a discussion exploring all of the ways we can incorporate the arts and its tremendous impact into other areas of study," Hamm said.
"The benefits of participating in arts and culture, as a student, a patron or audience member, are immense," said executive director Darren Hamm. For individuals it has been documented to improve numerous facets of social, emotional, cognitive and physical well being - supporting community members of all ages and abilities. For communities, arts and culture foster a sense of belonging, a connection to one another as well as to our place and time."
Hamm noted in limiting opportunities for only those who have financial means, physical ability or educational background is a failure to recognize the power of the arts and believes it should be looked at as a right rather than a privilege.
"Part of our vision includes modeling what we think the arts should look like, broadly encompassing all forms of creative activity 'high' and 'low' and reflective in content and representation of our entire community," he added.
Over the past year Oberlin Center for the Arts has focused on a number of priorities in showcasing the arts in less familiar settings, developing a concert series, expanding program for seniors to tackle isolation during the novel coronavirus pandemic and an artist-in-residence program bringing classical musicians to healthcare settings.
The benefits of participating in arts and cultural programming has been documented in improving social, emotional cognitive and physical well-being.
The organization has paid particular attention to community health.
Arts and Community Health
Executive Director Darren Hamm sees their mandate in a way as responding to the needs of the people of Lorain County. In collaboration with StoryLens, Oberlin Arts developed the interACTS program as a way of “creatively” responding to COVID-19 in providing artistic enrichment to older adults
Through the interACTS program, Oberlin Center for the Arts and StoryLens will offer performances and educational programs drawing on resources from the arts and culture community and from public and partnering institutions to counter the health effects of social isolation.
Oberlin Center for the Arts will commission individual artists to produce original works to direct much-needed income to those whose livelihood has been put on hold by the pandemic, the release said.
Beginning as a pilot program in fall 2019 with two rotating musicians from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Hamm says he hopes to grow the program to 10 musicians playing for patients, family and staff, building more in-person connections.
Using the arts as a tool for healing and for building understanding, the PAIR program introduces music into lobbies and along bedsides, to leverage its ability to help alleviate pain, reduce stress and decrease overall recovery time.
The program provides an opportunity to build community and foster personal connections among students and area residents. Research suggests a number of positive benefits to music in healthcare settings and helping care providers by lowering rates of tension and fatigue among staff.
The organization also sponsors numerous arts education camps for youth following their mission of increasing access to the arts, recognizing disadvantaged students are less likely to have direct access to arts programming.
Working with Oberlin, Lorain, Elyria and Sandusky school districts, the free arts academies provide arts enrichment programs targeting students in grades three through five with support from Nord Family Foundation, Ohio Arts Council and The Stocker Foundation.