A SmART Goodbye

The foundation just completed its third and final year of SmART in the City, a unique, comprehensive summer arts camp for urban pre-teens.  It is with both pride and sadness that I think back on the three summers past. 

Pride, because the foundation created an unprecedented arts experience for many hundreds of fifth, sixth and seventh graders – most of whom have never and may never again have the opportunity to explore their creativity.  Pride also because we were able to work in close and deeply respectful partnership with many local arts organizations, individual teaching artists and neighborhood-based nonprofits, to make the program work.  Check out the activities of the program on its dedicated website and see a few photos below. (Click the image for a full-size view.)

Close EncounterDayohagwenda student-tribal-masks.jpgstudent-with-mudcloth-design.jpgGirl group

The sadness comes with knowing the program will not continue.  SmART in the City was created as a result of a one-time gift from UBS Wealth Management in 2007.  UBS provided funding for two years, requesting that the foundation create and manage a new and deep engagement with the arts for city youth.  Through the foundation’s ability to find efficiencies and add a little of our own resources, we were able to offer the program for three years on UBS’ investment. 

There is the age-old dilemma for philanthropy: whether it is conscionable to start something that most likely will not be able to continue, or is it just good to provide people with a new experience in hopes that something wonderful will get planted and grow in unknown ways in individuals over time?

Of course, I have to come down on the side of saying ‘yes’ to the latter.  Although the clear disappointment of parents and children, when they learned the program will not continue, has been very hard to deal with.  At one of our SmART sites, parents got up a petition to the foundation to continue the program. At another, the host facility has decided to try to raise money and hire the arts group that worked at their site this summer, to come back and do some version of the SmART program.  So a seed took root there, perhaps.

Anyway, goodbye to SmART.  And a heartfelt ‘Thank you” to all who helped make it wonderful – including the amazing children of Cleveland.