“We Convene” ─ Let’s Talk Arts, Culture, and Kids

by | May 19, 2022 | Arts, Children & Youth | 0 comments

Though they go hand in hand, art and culture differ. Culture is a collection of social forms, traits, customary beliefs, and other human experiences that do not originate from the genetic inheritance of a religious, racial, or social group. Art, one aspect of culture, is the creative expression of one’s experiences, emotions, and other qualities.

Art can give voice to the disenfranchised. A song, film, or novel can rouse emotions. It lets people from diverse cultures and times communicate via images, sounds, and stories. Thus, art can be a vehicle for social change.

Pinellas Community Foundation has a history of collaborating with the county’s arts agency, Creative Pinellas. In 2018, the pair hosted an arts advocacy summit. The following year marked PCF’s 50th anniversary when Creative Pinellas hosted PCF’s arts-inspired celebration event, called “Festivale 50,” on its Largo campus.

“We Are Parallel”

The bond strengthened in 2020 with the Arts Community Relief Fund (ACRF), a partnership that included the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Foundation for Healthy St. Petersburg. ACRF awarded more than $130,000 to artists, art organizations, and creative businesses affected by COVID-19.

“The relationship strengthened again in 2022 with a co-created forum engaging the community in a comprehensive conversation about arts and culture,” said Barbara St. Clair, CEO of Creative Pinellas. The forum, “We Convene,” is a series of gatherings, culminating on Sept. 30, 2022, with a public town hall meeting. Topics include Performing Arts, Accessibility and Equity, Arts and Tourism, and Economic and Wellbeing Needs for Artists.

“We think of Pinellas Community Foundation as allies in innovation, serving the same geographic area and aimed at improving quality of life,” said Barbara. “The two are parallel, both offering grants and workshops and both bringing thought leaders together to create a better community.”

Arts and Cultural Experiences for Kids

Another alliance began pre-pandemic when PCF helped guide the creation of Creative Pinellas Summer Camp Grants. The program provided access to various arts and cultural experiences throughout the county for eligible children.

According to Barbara, PCF gave Creative Pinellas the confidence to structure its summer camp grants to match the child’s interests. This approach allowed Creative Pinellas to provide camp options in their neighborhoods and beyond.

“PCF showed us that by providing grants directly to kids and their families instead of to arts organizations, kids have more say on where and when they wish to attend,” said Barbara. “We realized that people tend to go to camps they are familiar with in their neighborhoods without knowing other options exist.”

Options include theatre, visual arts, creative writing, music, and other arts experiences at local organizations: Morean Arts Center, Marcia P. Hoffman School of the Arts at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Largo Summer Camps, American Stage, Keep St. Pete Lit, and many more.

Let’s Go to a Theatre!

About 60% have never attended a day camp, and 80% have never been to an arts camp. “It’s amazing how it changes lives,” said Barbara. “After camp, they’ll say, ‘I want to go to a concert or theatre.’”

Grant-eligible children are in Title I schools, full or partial school lunch programs, poverty vulnerable communities, or the criminal justice system.

Creative Pinellas receives funding from Pinellas County and private donations. This year, 300 campers are receiving grants, an increase over 250 last year. An average session costs $200.

The arts agency hopes to work with other organizations that offer great camp experiences but no arts camps. Barbara also wants organizations to consider arts camps for spring and winter break and hopes to find funds for ancillary services like after-camp care and lunch. 

Social justice initiatives are on the horizon, too. “Data show arts camps change the trajectory for kids,” Barbara said, noting a potential tie-in with literacy initiatives. “Arts camps draw children in and create openings to address other hardships,” she said. “Arts camps are the beginning, not the end.”

Check Out Summer Camps

Summer is quickly approaching. Find a Pinellas County arts summer camp designed for kids to have fun and develop their artistic skills.

Join the Convention

Throughout the summer, Creative Pinellas will host “We Convene” to discuss key topics of importance to the arts community. This series is FREE and open to the public. Register today to get involved.