As school districts struggle to avoid overspending, schools keep looking for ways to save money. Now, more and more schools have decided to cut out several fine arts programs, whether they be visual arts, drama or band.
This shift is primarily due to the expansion of standardized test-based accountability, which pressures schools to focus resources on tested subjects.
However, a Charlotte program is doing more than its part to keep the optics of art open to students who wish to explore their creative talents.
Creating Exposure Through The Arts is a nonprofit designed to educate and mentor youth by creating opportunities in the arts.
“Creating Exposure Through The Arts strives to empower, educate youth and create opportunities for artists to develop their talents,” said Mark Pendergrass, founder and executive director of Creating Exposure Through The Arts.
This unique mentoring program tries to expose mentees to new experiences and provide a vehicle of expression for a diverse group of individuals to showcase, preserve, cultivate and promote artistry.
For Pendergrass, his desire to share his craft and skills goes back to the days of growing up in Harlem, New York.
“Growing up in the projects of Harlem New York, my father was the first mentor who I encountered,” Pendergrass said. “He would share life experiences and life lessons to encourage me, my brothers, my friends and kids throughout the neighborhood to strive for personal goals.”
While in college and afterward, Pendergrass committed himself to sharing his knowledge and skills to help others.
He volunteered with nonprofit organizations and eventually decided to create an organization that would enable him and others to share their love for the arts with young people.
“This (organization) allows me to mentor kids using art to provide life skills, build self-esteem and expose them to experiences while teaching a skill that could become a major in college or career in life,” Pendergrass said.
Professional photographers, writers and graphic artists mentor students in various programs including photography training, developing entrepreneurial and writing skills. The Exposure program focuses on mentoring and internships.
The program works with youth to develop their talents in various genres of the arts and showcase these abilities locally and nationally as it provides a vehicle to expose them to new experiences.
"As a mentor, you want to continue to be a trusted individual who can help and provide advice."
“I am extremely proud and impacted by the fact that I have three former students who are currently on staff as instructors,” Pendergrass said.
Mentoring is linked to improved academic, social and economic prospects for youth. When you volunteer to become a mentor, you are not only positively impacting someone's life, you are ultimately helping to strengthen our local community and workforce.
“Our programs are primarily in underserved area because we like to give those who are often neglected an opportunity to participate in a unique arts program that focuses on giving real life experiences in those fields of study,” he said.
The program is currently preparing to shoot a documentary and images for its "Behind The Ink" project. “Ink” is often used as slang for a tattoo.
Behind The Ink is an interactive, multi-disciplinary visual arts exhibit, and will showcase impactful images and short film documentary of people from various races, cultures, ethnicities and age groups that will tell stories behind their tattoos.
Pendergrass and many mentors like him want to ensure the generation that follows is prepared for the journey.
A valuable resource in Charlotte for the mentoring community is the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte’s mentoring community.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance is asking for nominations for deserving individuals or organizations that have made a difference in the lives of Charlotte children and youth through a commitment to mentoring.
To learn about mentoring or meet others interested in mentoring, people can attend a Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance Mentor Mingle and connect with individuals and organizations that can provide mentor and mentee opportunities.
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