Save The Arts Benefit: Interview with Suzanne Nichols

I met Suzanne Nichols, the Executive Director of the Save the Arts Benefit and her daughter, just a couple days before the event/fundraiser occurred. They both came to my studio/ house in Santa Monica to pick up a Painting that I had donated to the Art auction. We had an amazing conversation about arts advocacy and I was so honored to be part of this event. 
Also we connected because she is from the Bay Area,Oakland!! We hope she will be present at Take 5: ARTbreak Day!! next Friday
-Enjoy Suzanne's amazing and artful insights! 
From the fundraiser she did save ART for 750 Los Angeles youth who would have not received Arts Education in school, otherwise. Kudos and Thank you Suzanne for the amazing work you do!!

Why are you an artist/performer?

Today, I am an artist performer because it feeds my soul and I enjoy the challenge of interpreting someone else's words and music, bringing a character to life, and connecting with the audience emotionally in a different way every nigh.  I developed my love for performance in high school to distract the bullies from teasing me about my coke-bottle glasses and train-track braces.  It's pretty hard for your peers to laugh at you, when they're laughing with you. 

Can you speak about your art philosophy as an Art Educator?
My philosophy as an Art Educator is as follows:Exposure to the Arts (visual, theatre, dance, music) is a right, not a privilege, and the way that we teach our children today informs the type of society that we will have tomorrow.  The Arts are vital to creating a society of dreamers, innovators, and world citizens who are compassionate members of our ever-shrinking global society.

Why and how did " Save the Arts" organization come to be? 

 "Save the Arts" is an organization that was founded in response to all of the cuts that LAUSD was making to Arts Education.  There were cuts across the board, but the Arts, in particular were online to receive the most austere cuts.  We were to have 66% of our work force cut.  This would make it impossible to ensure that student received the well-rounded education that they deserved.  Initially, Save the Arts was only to be a benefit to raise funds for the Arts Education Branch of LAUSD, make the Los Angeles community (the entertainment capital of the world, by the way) aware of this wonderful gem that they had in the Arts Education Branch (many people did not know that we existed), and to celebrate the burgeoning talents of our children.  Many wonderful Arts Educators from the Arts Education Branch graciously volunteered their time and talent to help make this happen.  One such artist was critically acclaimed artist Castillo, who agreed to take on the Herculean task of mounting an art auction.  Many artists from the AEB as well as Los Angeles and surrounding communities donated their paintings.  One of these wonderful artists was Lisa Rasmussen, one half of "Art Day", coming soon to a Bay Area city near you ;) Once we got things going, we decided that "Save the Arts" could be more than just one event, it could be an organization whose mission would be to ensure that every child received the well-rounded education that he deserved; an education that includes the Arts.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Did the fundraiser "Save the Arts" meet your expectations? Any surprises? 
The "Save the Arts" Benefit more than met my expectations.  We were lucky in that we worked with some people who had put together events like this in the past, so I was firmly rooted in reality in regards to what we could expect to raise.  Our goal going into this was more about raising awareness than raising funds.  The funds will come when you continue to do the work and people see results.  I am proud to announce that we were able to do both.  The Los Angeles Times as well as a few other local papers and a local news station came to cover our event.  People who work in the industry took notice of what we did and have offered to help us with our next venture, and we were able to save a position in the Arts Education Branch.  By saving this position, we have ensured that 750 students will now receive Arts Education who otherwise wouldn't have. How's that for an awkward sentence?

How did the arts save you? 
There are so many ways and time in which Art saved my life.  Too many to count, so I'll just mention a couple. Music saved my life.  It got me through some really rough times.  It was my therapy.  When I felt out of sorts, I always knew that I could go to my room and sing my sorrows away.  As an adult, theatre saved my life.  At one point in my life, I was going through a particularly rough patch.  If not for the play in which I was performing, the people that I met there, the audience that was  my family every night, I would have come out of that situation with a lot more scars than I currently have.  There's nothing that compares to the give and take of Art in it's many forms.  It is, to me, one of the purest ways that you can give of yourself as well as receive from others.

Do you think art should be accessible to everyone?
Art should be accessible to everyone because it is truly a right.  It's not for the privileged few, it is something that is for the masses.  Art is the great equalizer.  All of us can be accomplished singers, writers, actors, artists, dancers.  Though it is wonderful to attend an institution of higher learning and further study your craft, you don't have to go to college to be accomplished at the Arts.  You don't have to be rich to be good at those things. All you need is an opportunity; some exposure.   All of us can enjoy a good song, a good story, a memorable character, a beautiful work of art, a dance that moves us to tears.  You don't have to be rich to enjoy those things.  The Arts are the great equalizer. 

What is the role of the artist in our society?  In my opinion, the role of the artist in our society is to reflect what is going on in our world today.  The artist holds a mirror up to society and allow us the chance to look at where we are, reflect, and decide whether or not this is where we want to be one two years down the line.  I think that the role of the artist is also to make us laugh at ourselves when necessary and to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.                              

Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
In five years.....I don't know, I hope that I have grown and learned a few new things.  In five years.....I'd like to see myself studying the Arts and their impact in cultures around the world.

What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
My ultimate goal as an artist is to learn, grow, and communicate with others.  If I can do that, then I consider myself a successful artist.

What does art mean to you?
Everything.  It means everything to me.

To our readers, how has art saved you?

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