The Spirituality of Music

[Note: This was published first in Xtreme Music: Exploring Music and Spirituality edited by Justin St. Vincent]

Music has the power to transcend the mundane. Through the musical experience, one enters into the presence of Otherness; a presence that unifies outside of the boundaries of self, race, class, and difference.

Several years ago, BuildaBridge, an arts-education and intervention organization I co-founded in 1997, was providing a summer concert series in a local homeless shelter in Philadelphia. We asked a local concert pianist to provide the music, and here I begin to show my bias. Not that he was a bad pianist. He wasn’t, but I learned that his concerts where mostly in nursing homes.

The shelter where he was performing is the largest in Philadelphia with nearly one hundred and fifty homeless children and their parents in residence. The location is depressing enough. The former mental hospital is in very poor repair with one wing closed because of broken floors and ceilings. Only the resident rats call it home. The once stately gates now provide a façade of safety in one of the toughest areas of the city, surrounded by vacant houses often home to equally menacing drug dealers and gunshots. Continue reading

Why BuildaBridge?

Beginning in 1997, when we conducted our first Institute amongst 15 fighting congregations in a dysfunctional and earthquake ravaged community in Costa Rica, we have consistently seen what can happen when artists with the training and passion for service engage their art as a vehicle for transformation. Though often difficult to document in quantitative terms, there is evidence of our impact at home here in Philadelphia and around the world in some very challenging places. First a few of my favorite quotes. Continue reading

Should I Start a Non-Profit? RTQ

My recommendation is to find an effective organization, one that is doing good work, one you are passionate about and join it. Help make it better and stronger by contributing hard work with a listening and learning attitude.

Maybe I can set this in context.  2009 was a pivotal year for BuildaBridge.  Due to the economic crisis, and a rethinking of our strategy,  we laid off 3 employees and downsized our office.  We were forced, more immediately, to evaluate (even though we do a lot of assessment) the effectiveness of our programming, the needs for our services, and the primary goal of our work.  In 1997, when we began BuildaBridge there were very few organizations that provided the kind of training and services we were providing.  This led us to do our research project in 2002 which covered 61 artists of faith in 16 US cities.  Today, arts for education, healing, social services and development is much more common, along with training at the workshop, certificate and graduate levels. Continue reading

The Power of Scribble

Artists responding to crisis and serving for development

Never underestimate the power of a scribble and a good story.  In the wake of a tsunami, the after-shock of an earthquake, or the muddy mess of a flood, children who are traumatized by these events can be empowered with the opportunity to draw, tell their stories, dance their anxiety, and act out their thoughts. The results are a strengthened resilience, hope and healing.  But how does this work? Continue reading

Arts in Restorative Transformation

Arts in Restorative Transformation (ART)

BuildaBridge Core Philosophy and Practice

All organizations and artists operate on some set of basic beliefs, principles and philosophical understandings, even if they don’t or can’t articulate them. BuildaBridge, since it’s founding in 1997, has intentionally developed a personal and social change model that we implement in all our activities and programs. This brief article will provide you with an outline of basic principles for your work with BuildaBridge. Our motto for working with kids is: Speaking a Blessing into the Life of Every Child Everyday through the Arts. We define a blessing (a universal principle of good will) as speaking and teaching hope (ii) and healing into a child’s future through words of truth & encouragement as well as appropriate touch and commitment to the relationship. This is most effectively
accomplished when the art-making provides a metaphor for a life lesson. Art as metaphor happens through mature and mentoring relationships between an artist and a child. Continue reading

Molding Clay and Shaping Lives

Reflections on Basic Art Therapy by Jaroslava Sickova-Fabrici

What child doesn’t like mud?  I grew up in the Southern United States in mostly small towns of farming communities. I remember the warm feel of the summer’s clay between my toes.  Making mud pies was a favorite past time with my sisters, especially after a spring rain—and long before cable and the Internet.  Playing in the mud was soothing, bonded me to my sisters, and most of all, fun.  Who knew it could be part of a healing process back then? Continue reading

Lalgarth, near Patel saw mill

Article for Soaring on the Economic Benefit of the Creative Arts

“Lalgarth, near Patel saw mill.”  That was the entry Daniel entered as his physical contact address for an email listserve he joined as part of BuildaBridge, a charitable non-profit arts education and intervention organization I cofounded with Dr. Vivian Nix-Early in 1997.  Since meeting Daniel in Malyasia in 2006, he has consistently requested training in community arts with his local staff. They work with a largely non-literate population of impoverished and marginalized women and children. Continue reading