At a recent networks exchange in New York, Fellows from the tri-state network and the Chattanooga network had a blast sharing experiences, stories, and inspiration. There were many conversations, presentations and even epiphanies on both sides.
One of the voices was Toni Gwaltney's from Chattanooga. Toni has been involved with the Fine Arts and Human Rights most of her life. A brief encounter teaching an Arts workshop with children from our Cathedral school, Holy Trinity Episcopal, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, convinced her that arts education was her calling. So when RSA Chattanooga received a catalyst grant to help launch an arts program for under-served kids in Chattanooga, Toni had found another outlet for her life's passion.
Toni commented, "As a teacher, the power of the Fine Arts to transform lives is awe-inspiring. For children who have nothing, it doesn't just merely enhance their academic performance. It can be life-saving. We know we cannot change someone's life circumstance, but we can help them develop a new vision, a way to a different life path, a way to rewrite their own story. The belief that something...a sheet of blank paper, a few notes on a piano, a handful of lines from a script... can be transformed into something different, something beautiful or meaningful or evocative, translates somehow in the heart and mind as FAITH. The Arts imbue us with Faith: faith in ourselves, faith in humanity, faith in what is possible."
She added, "I do hope that we can find some way to share the faith with other communities who have been left out of the Arts. Can you imagine if we could put a Visual Arts or Orchestra or Theater program in every poor, culturally deprived community in America? I think the educational establishment would have to take notice!"
More reports on the Chattanooga-New York Networks Exchange can be found on the American Coffee House (www.blog.rsa-us.org) and a full report will appear in the November 1 US newsletter.