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Changing lives & communities through the arts

8 Jun 2017
2017 06 07 SG Phone 037This week I had the great pleasure to attend the grand opening of the new Six Points Innovation Center, known as 6PIC, in Highland Park.

The Center is a newly renovated building that has become a safe teen center where neighborhood youth have access to innovative programming in the arts, urban ecology, education assistance, public media, public history, and advocacy. 6PIC is an engaging hub of community revitalization with the teens at the very heart of it, encouraging them to become change makers in their community.

Programming comes from several area nonprofits: Storefront for Community Design, ART 180, Saving Our Youth, and Groundwork RVA, among others that may be joining in. Teens from the programs will also elect a Changemakers Council to drive a youth-led community agenda in Highland Park.

2017 06 07 SG Phone 040The grand opening was full of a crowd enthusiastic about the impact that the Center, and the teens that will come here, will have on our city. One of the speakers talked about these teens becoming “city builders”. The crowd included many of our local artists, and many had their own story about how something from their teen years significantly changed the direction of their lives. One of those artists was “Neil”.

A friend introduced me to Neil saying “he learned Shakespeare from Tupac.” Neil went on to explain it really started with Eminem when Neil was in middle school. Neil was a big fan and listened to an interview where he learned Eminem was inspired by Tupac’s work. So he started learning about Tupac and discovered Tupac’s inspirations for his lyrical work included the works of William Shakespeare so Neil started reading his works. During this time Neil shared he was going through some tough times at home in Petersburg and he started to write poetry of his own, learning about rhyming schemes and metaphors from Shakespeare. He wrote poems through his graduation from high school, then began writing hip hop poetry. From there he found his true calling was not only poetry, but telling stories. Today, in his twenties (I think), Neil has become a documentary film maker and says it was the experience with poetry in middle school that helped him through those difficult times and enabled him to follow his passion.

Arts and culture have the power to change lives- for individuals and communities. Neil has experienced this firsthand. So have I. The teens at 6PIC are about to find out.

See http://www.storefrontrichmond.org/6pic/ to learn more.

-Scott Garka, President

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