The kids at Oakland School for the Arts don’t just shine at acting, painting, playing music and dancing, says the school’s executive director, Donn Harris – they excel at academics as well. He believes that’s because of their exposure to arts.
“Our kids are curious about the world,” he said. “A history book is not foreign to them.”
Art plays a big role in kids’ development, agrees Jabari Gray, the deputy director at Youth Radio.
“When a young person has free range to solve problems they’re presented with in creative ways and when they look through an individual lens at life, that helps develop cognitive abilities,” he said. “Also art helps to alleviate stress.”
That’s why the two organizations have partnered with the Museum of Children’s Arts (MOCHA), and are taking part in a benefit for MOCHA on Saturday, March 15 from 2 to 6 at MOCHA’s office at 1625 Clay Street.
MOCHA, founded in 1989, has open studios, field trips, and art camps. The organization also sends teaching artists to eight libraries and 21 schools. There’s a real danger of losing that, says Quincy McCoy. Times are tight with government grants that used to help support non-profit arts organizations are gone and not coming back. And for the 30,000 or so kids and their families MOCHA serves to be without art in their lives would be a serious loss, he says.
“What I love about kids making art is that magical moment when they look down and realize, ‘I did this, it came out of me,’” he says. “Something opens up in you, and you know there is more to you than what you’re told.”
That connection makes kids more involved in their world, McCoy says. And he believes art has a direct psychological impact on kids.
“I think that just doing it heals psychic damage,” he said. “When you have that much violence in your life, you need a safe place you can go.”
By partnering with Youth Radio and the Oakland School for the Arts, they’ll be able to provide that to kids from pre-school through from their high school graduation, McCoy says.
MOCHA is a beloved Oakland institution, but sometimes that leads people to take it for granted and assume it will always be there, McCoy says. And that’s not the case, he adds.
“We’re walking a tightrope without a net,” he said. “We really need money, so come on all you Twitter millionaires – you get a tax break! If you want to really do something good, I’ve got a place where you can do a lot of good.”
The four-hour event, MOCHA Matters, on March 15 from 2-6 pm includes an exhibition of OSA student artwork and a participatory MOCHA mural. Youth Radio students will also be performing – singing, rapping, and reading poetry. Tickets are $200 for individuals or families. Non-Twitter millionaires are welcome. For more information visit mocha.org or call (510) 465-8770 ext 110.