One of my favorite boards that I serve on is the ART 180 board. Our mission is to change the lives of young people and their communities 180 degrees through art. Not that the artwork itself will change lives or communities, but exposing young people to art and the artistic process and self expression and constructive time spent with mentors just might.
We are launching a new project in the fall called SOHO – Space of Her (or His) Own, based on the SOHO project in Alexandria, VA. This project will entail one-on-one mentoring of about 20 young people (middle school aged kids) for a year – they will meet once a week with their mentors, work on homework, eat a nutritious meal, and then work on an art project for their final project (and prize) – a new space of their own! Their rooms will get a make over at the end of the year.
Today in our board meeting, some of the ART 180 staff had gone up to visit the SOHO project in Alexandria. And what they had to say was amazing / shocking… Our program leader asked if there sibling rivalry (i.e. 1 sibling is in the program and gets a new room while the other one is not) is ever an issue. In Alexandria, the problem is not with jealous siblings, but rather jealous mothers. They have had issues where the mom of the daughter that is in the SOHO program takes over the daughters room! I couldn’t believe it – it makes me want to cry.
I think of my mom, who did everything in her power to give Yarbs and I everything we needed and wanted, my mom – who “loves” the heel of the bread, who just wants Yarbs and I to be happy and successful, who gives and gives willingly and happily, who always pushed us and pushed us to be our best, who would never take anything from us… how different and difficult it must be having a mom who would take your re-made room that you worked 9 months on creating. How, if you are that kid, there are so many things already in place for you to fail.
And I guess many of the mothers themselves are young and perhaps a little ill-equipped – never having much support themselves (I imagine), so they can’t really be blamed. It just seems so sad to me…
Maybe our Richmond SOHO project will give one or two or five young people the support and self-confidence they need to change their lives. To grow up to be like my mom, that is my hope.