by Madeline Wadley, guest writer
As a senior at Warren Wilson, I constantly dealt with the “So, what are you doing after college?” question. I told people I was going to be a professional ice cream taster – which would be a pretty awesome living – until I could figure out an actual plan. I’ve never been a huge risk taker, but this summer I threw all my eggs in one basket and applied for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF). Now, instead of tasting ice cream, I work for a wonderful, local nonprofit organization! I knew that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector after graduating from Warren Wilson, and becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA for LEAF has been a perfect opportunity to blend two of my passions: service in the community and arts education.
LEAF seeks to connect cultures and create community through music and the arts. Twice a year, LEAF brings music, dance, and art from all over the world to Black Mountain. Over the course of four days, the festival forms a diverse and welcoming community of all ages. Though the festival has an inherent global focus, it supports the Asheville community by featuring local businesses, musicians, and performing artists. But LEAF isn’t just a festival – it’s an outreach organization. LEAF’s year-round programs support youth music and arts programming in eight different countries as well as in Asheville/Buncombe County. LEAF in Schools & Streets (LSS) matches artists with youth in schools and communities for hands-on workshops, residencies, interactive performances, and mentoring that include opportunities for youth to perform at the LEAF festival.
Arts education provides a means of self-expression and skills that are applicable in every facet of life. Youth who participate in arts programs are also more likely to succeed academically, socially, and behaviorally. Unfortunately, the arts are steadily losing priority in our educational system. LSS fulfills this educational need through our Resident Teaching Artist programs. Many of the youth we serve live in situations of poverty and would otherwise never have the chance to experience the arts firsthand, much less perform at a music festival. LSS proves that music and the arts can bridge cultures and empower youth through life-altering, community-building experiences.
Four months after graduation, I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing a year from now. For the time being, I’m grateful for the opportunity to hone the skills I gained through the Warren Wilson Triad, and put them to use at a local nonprofit I believe in with my whole heart.
Warren Wilson students can serve with LEAF in Schools & Streets! We are currently looking for volunteers and interns to assist with our Resident Teaching Artist programs, marketing, and fundraising. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved!
Warren Wilson students can join the LEAF community! Fall LEAF 2012 is October 18th – 21st, and tickets are now 10% off for WWC students! Just enter the code: BeLEAFWWC12 when you purchase online. You can also volunteer for the festival and attend for free! Applications are available at www.theleaf.org.