Greetings from Panama,
As I prepare interviews for the 12th annual Panama Jazz Festival, I can’t help but to reflect events that brought me to this point. Since the summer of 2013 I felt change in the air. My wanderlust went from being centered on adventure, exploration, and acquiring life experience, to contributing my talents to fostering positive change in the places I visit. It was during this transition that a good friend introduced me to The Khlong Toey Music Program, a nonprofit organization that provides free music lessons to economically disadvantaged children in Bangkok. Experiencing firsthand Music’s universal capacity to inspire, educate, build community, and give purpose reinforced my fervor for Art-centered education. My next destination was Japan for The Setouchi International Art Festival where I worked as creative editor for The Final Straw Project’s Human Nature Exhibition. Through this work, I saw my love of the Arts, writing, teaching, and community building converge onto a meaningful platform where I could impact positive social change.
Upon my return to California, I felt a strong sense of clarity. The school calendar showed a one week break in February, so I booked a trip to the East Coast to connect with two organizations, Hip Hop Fundamentals and Bridging Education and Art Together (BEAT), who both successfully employ various Art forms as the foundation for teaching academic content in public schools. My intention was to learn new methods of integrating the Arts into my own classroom and school site; however, the trip revealed a different path.
As I sat on a Philadelphia bound bus, my Couch Surfing host, who interestingly enough, had newly quit her lucrative career to pursue photography, healing, and world travel, sent me a text message with a link to a video entitled Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off. As I watched, I felt as if Stephan Sagmeister was talking directly to me, and ideas that had been swimming around in my head for months converged into one clear inspiration. Though I sincerely loved teaching and my life in San Jose, I chose the newly revealed path.
Upon my return to California, I enthusiastically explained my vision to my principal and gave my resignation. A few months later I notified to my landlord and began to sell off my furniture and other nonessentials. I completed the school year more inspired than ever before, taught summer school, then devoted myself to building the Art is Power platform. People came out of the woodwork to help, friends, family, artists, writers, photographers, web designers, grant writers, all believed in my vision and spent many hours helping me do everything from design logos to developing a website and articulating my vision into a succinct statement. I learned that any transformative undertaking requires the minds of many. I could have never gotten this far without the help those people, and would like to thank all who have believed in my vision enough to help me get to this point.
I recently arrived in Panama and am currently engaged in making connections, planning interviews, and creating opportunities to work with organizations that employ the Arts as a instrument for cultivating creativity, awareness, empathy, community engagement, and innovation. For the next three months, my home is wherever I lay my backpack and not a day passes without feeling thankful for having this opportunity. Stay tuned for updates from Central and South America, and thank you all for your support.