- Gabriel Gallego
The Performing Arts Needed More Than Ever
Last month I had the opportunity to listen in on a SEED Impact meeting with members of the Arts Education Department at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), in Newark.
NJPAC is the most diverse performing arts center in the country, providing educational opportunities for youth looking to cultivate their artistic passions, learn new forms of creative expression, and find joy in singing, dancing, acting, or playing an instrument. NJPAC is now offering all virtual classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This meeting really got me thinking how lucky I’ve been at a young age to learn and develop my skills in photography. In today’s fast-paced world, youth and young adults deal with so much stress and conflict in their daily life. The digital world consumes so many aspects of our lives, making it difficult to find time and space to slow down. Who couldn’t benefit from practice that helps us relax, be present, and express our feelings? For me, this is where the performing arts come in; they have immense potential to help us work through difficult emotions, find fulfillment, and experience confidence in our creativity.
Every form of artistic expression has immense potential to help us in a variety of ways: art is healing, it is a safe space to share our emotions, ideas, and thoughts about ourselves and the world around us.
During the meeting, the leaders of NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens program reflected on the importance of being able to make sure their students feel welcome, regardless of their age, skill level, or cultural background. I think that is so essential because many kids are interested in the arts, but they are afraid that they will be judged on whether or not they are “good” in comparison to others. This fear of being judged is very real. I imagine that many of us can recall moments of stage fright, or feeling embarrassed to perform in front of others whether it was acting, dancing, playing an instrument, or reciting lyrics. In a space where one feels comfortable enough to be themselves, the deepest creative potential within can be realized. Reflecting on my own journey with art, I have always made the most meaningful work when I have stepped away from my ego’s judgments about myself and entered a space of timelessness and presence. Entering this space to me is the most healing aspect of creating, I can experience releasing my emotions and transforming them into a visual or auditory piece of art.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world around us. Art has the power to help us heal the trauma and stress of this time period. It allows us to slow down, breathe, and focus on something that gives us meaning and joy.
I’m excited that SEED Impact and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center have teamed up. SEED excels at guiding all types of programs to clarify intended results and then track progress in a way that actually enriches the creative process and accelerates learning. Watch for NJPAC’s first impact report in May 2021!
Gabriel Gallego, age 18, began volunteering at SEED Impact after graduating high school. He sits in on meetings with SEED clients as they reflect on their vision, obstacles, progression, and intended outcomes. Through these meetings Gabriel has been opened to a new world of non-profit organizations and their deeply profound goals and impacts, learning about a variety of important social causes of our time.