Arts Education Matters More Than Ever, And This Nonprofit Makes It Possible

by Nikkya Hargrove
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Marci Zaroff

As parents, especially in 2020, our kids were watching us. They learned from us. They looked at how we handled problems and responded to them. What we said mattered, and what we did not say mattered too. When George Floyd was murdered and the video circulated online, my 14-year-old son had questions for me, like, “What do you think will happen to the officers?” and more. When the murder of Breonna Taylor made its way to my news feed, I mourned and worried about the future of our country, for my five-year-old twin daughters; I worried if they’d suffer like Breonna.

My worry could not be shielded from my face or my home. Around my dinner table, we talked about racism. We talked about the devastation of losing a child in such a tragic way, like Breonna’s mother experienced, and how we as Black and brown people living in the world should protect ourselves. And we marched as a family, our kids walking beside us making statements too big for them to comprehend, but aware enough to know they had a role to play.

We all have a role to play, as moms and as people moving through the world. And that’s the message that mom Marci, Founder/CEO of ECOfashion Corpa “Greenhouse of Brands”and her daughter, Jade Zaroff, founder of a youth arts nonprofit called Entertainment for Change, want to share. Scary Mommy recently spoke with them about why the work of their nonprofit Entertainment for Change matters now more than ever.

Courtesy of Marci Zaroff

When I spoke with Marci and Jade, our discussion reminded me that as moms — even on the hardest of days, even when it seems like the world is falling apart — we can do something to make the world better, just as Jade’s mom, Marci did in the mid-nineties when she started her own eco-friendly fashion company called YES AND. In the process, her passion for environmentalism wasn’t lost on her daughter. Marci shared, “I’ve spent the past 30 years driving sustainability through food, beauty, and fashion. When Jade went to college, she naturally gravitated to art and did this huge event to celebrate Earth Day.”

Jade says, “My whole life, I was involved with eco-friendly living (thanks to Mom). In college, I asked myself, why aren’t we thinking about introducing students to eco-friendly art? I started EFC in college because I wanted to extend that vision, which allowed for a platform that integrated activism into the arts. In 2016, EFC was incorporated.” One of the catalysts for starting EFC was the influence of Jade’s mom, Marci. In 2018, she released a book called ECOrenaissance: Co-Creating A Stylish, Sexy and Sustainable World,” which Jade is currently recording the audiobook for. Through her mother’s lived example, Jade followed her own passions of sustainability, art, and educating youth to establish Entertainment for Change.

Courtesy of Marci Zaroff

Entertainment of Change’s mission is grounded in educating youth with a foundation in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals through individual original artistic work. “We believe the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and creativity are the key to mobilizing young people in taking action against the global challenges we face; including those related to all forms of inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, and social justice,” EFC’s website says.

EFC’s mission is clear: use our collective voices and talents for social/environmental change, which will change our culture, and our world. Let’s not forget to bring our kids along with us; at the end of the day, we are handing it over to them.

In the coming weeks and months ahead, Entertainment for Change will release a curriculum geared at providing education and tools to help youth better understand the social issues impacting our communities. The free sessions will be led by impact artists focussed on education, empowerment, creation, and celebration. The six-week session (which is free) launches on January 14th and is virtual. Like many nonprofits, EFC pivoted to switch their in-person sessions to online, empowering young people around the world to express themselves through art.

Jade says, “My favorite quote by Bertolt Brecht: ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.’ Art shapes everything we do in the world. It is how we write the narrative of normality. Culture is completely shaped by what is out there: everything that integrates the five senses in how we absorb the world around us.” Art is a healer, she explains, and a way for kids especially to come to terms with what they want to speak to. “To communicate through an artistic medium is the most powerful way to communicate,” she adds.

Courtesy of Marci Zaroff

Entertainment for Change provides kids with a community of individuals who can help them not only healthily express themselves, but use their art to help activate change. This summer, COVID-19 permitting, Entertainment for Change will partner with a sleepaway camp in upstate New York called the French Woods Festival, a performing arts youth sleepaway camp. This program will be a first for EFC, inviting kids ages 7-17 years old to expand their voices, understand on a deeper level how and why their voices matter, and allowing kids to get back to a more normal existence.

Our senses — at least I know my kids’ senses — are on overload right now. As Jade reminds us, art can heal. I know it does in my household. Art provides kids with the ability to use their imaginations, to get outside of their world, and to address emotions they may not even know existed for them. Creating art is one of the tools we can give our kids to manage the craziness of COVID-19 – and beyond that, the future they’re shaping for themselves.

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