Viva Vox, The Sheldon Concert Hall and Department of Human Services/Lakeside Center have formed a strategic partnership for a very important reason: to give youth in trouble a chance to redirect their energies through creative endeavors through a program called IMAGINE (Individual Mentoring through Artistic Guidance to Impact New Expression).
The yearlong pilot program officially culminated on Tuesday, July 8th, with a multi-media performance and art exhibit featuring the apprentices, mentors and workshop artists from the 2002-2003 year. The performance and art exhibit, Global Village, took place at the Sheldon Concert Hall and boasted the world-class talent of Henryk Ptasweicz, Diadie Bathily and Farshid Etniko.
The Global Village art exhibit has been moved to The Commonspace and will run through July 31st, with a closing reception from 6-9 p.m.
The IMAGINE Program is the brainchild of Larry Perlmutter, founding officer of Viva Vox Organization and a former juvenile delinquent.
"I have first-hand knowledge what it's like to be a kid in trouble," says the passionate Perlmutter. "This program was born out of a need to reach kids through their strengths. I'd have done anything if some adult would have said to me, 'Hey, I heard you want to be a drummer let's see how we can get you there.'"
William Wolff, Director of Lakeside Center, agrees with Perlmutter and has welcomed the IMAGINE Program into this facility. The mission of Lakeside Residential Treatment Center is to teach, guide and motivate adolescents placed in its care so that they learn to make responsible decisions and lead productive lives. The center houses about 70 kids, between the ages of 13 and 17, who have gone through the Family Court of Saint Louis County.
The IMAGINE Program started June 14th, 2002, with a series of Friday afternoon workshops in visual and performing arts. These workshops ignited enthusiasm and desire in the kids, while establishing aptitude.
Personally, I was honored to be able to witness the transformation in countenance on these kids' faces. It's incredible to see these young adults enter the workshops, many with a chip on their shoulder, and leave looking like 5-year-old kids who have just spent a couple of hours playing in a sandbox.
The kids who showed desire, commitment and aptitude in the workshops were placed with individual mentors. These mentors are professional artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers from the Saint Louis arts community and have spent about nine months with their Lakeside Center apprentices. One of the objectives was to bring the child to a level of competence so that mentor and child would be able to perform together in a multi-media presentation at The Sheldon.
According to Perlmutter, many arts organizations and area businesses are supporting this idea, especially The Sheldon. He says, "Faith Williams and Dale Benz, manager and director of operations at The Sheldon, have been instrumental in affording Viva Vox Organization meeting and venue space, plus lots of love, support and connections."
"It's important that the kids have a goal to work for," says Benz. "We want to stress the business side of the arts, so having these kids not only perform in an event, but plan, market and be financially responsible for the event will add a real-life layer to their experience."
Perlmutter adds, "Although the year-long pilot program has been incredibly successful, we still need lots of help. A program like this requires many resources. We need more mentors and more money to continue this socially significant program in the 2003-2004 calendars."
To find out more information about the IMAGINE Program, or if you would like to volunteer to be a mentor or help with funding call: 443-VIVA (8482) or visit us at www.vivavox.org
Robin Schmeerbauch is the co-artistic director of Viva Vox.