Spark Youth With The Arts

It starts with the tap of your foot to a sound you hear in your head, and then you realize it’s music. Like a soft ting of a bell or the graceful descent and deliberate resting place of a snowflake, it uplifts and intensifies the sense of sight and sound in all of its majestic forms. It’s Art, a gift bequeathed to be nurtured and chiseled into magnificence. Enter the Cathedral Arts Project (CAP, a visual arts and performance program that facilitates artistic creativity. Consisting of a single dance class and ten students at its inception in 1993, the Cathedral Arts Project now serves more than 2,000 children each year through afternoon classes and summer programs in Duval County Public Schools, providing instruction in the arts of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts.

GQ20150425-0036_fbAllison Galloway-Gonzalez, Executive Director of Any Given Child, danced to the beat of a different drum as a child. As an adult, she knew she would support the arts, earning a Masters in Art History to further facilitate her role in The Cathedral Art Project’s collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child initiative, which implements comprehensible, sustainable arts education agendas to grades K-8, ensuring equitable access to learning in the arts. “Partnerships with other like-minded organizations in the public and private sector play an important role in developing the arts,” Gonzales says.

“The Cathedral Arts Program has had a pivotal role in changing the dynamics in visual arts and performance training,” says President and CEO, Rev. Kimberly Hyatt, who often remembers singing as a child and daydreaming of becoming a ballerina. She, too, can relate to the value of the Any Given Child initiative; as a child, her family did not have the means to support vocal or dance instruction. CAP exists to ensure that every child has equal access to an arts-rich education.

vocal_1Vocal coach and disciplinarian of the performing arts, Lorna Greenwood views the training as therapeutic for her students. She says, “I love watching their eyes light up. It enhances their abilities while bringing joy in the lives of others,” as her students often perform in senior living facilities.

ShelbyKathryn McAvoy, Executive Director of The Performer’s Academy (TPA,, whose love for the arts was cultivated while watching her mother perform as a professional dancer, stands firm in her belief that art has the ability to change lives. TPA is a center for performing arts education and development, committed to ensuring access to all children by providing scholarships to those who may not otherwise be able to afford classes. In addition, TPA offers free and reduced rates for studio space for programs that benefit the underserved.

The J.H. Walker String Ensemble, named after benefactor Joann Hamilton Walker and headed by Richard Cuff, Director of Guiding Success’ partnering with the League of Orchestras, Inc. provides musical instruction to pre-kindergarten students. The early childhood music initiative encourages literacy and empowerment through creativity. Cuff’s incorporation of original nursery rhyme jingles helps incorporate easy learning in relation to the chords on the violin. Of his preschoolers, Cuff touts, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes improvement.” Recently, Cuff’s Guiding Success ( has partnered with the Salvation Army to facilitate instrumental needs of the program.

In addition to the aforementioned organizations, Magnet schools such as Douglas Anderson, La Villa School of the Arts, and various others are geared towards visual and performance arts training. A listing of the Duval County visual and performing arts participants can be found on the Florida Department of Education website at

In addition to arts education, these visual arts and performance education programs are synonymous in their mission to empower our youth by developing creativity and skill sets that they can incorporate into their lives well into adulthood, simultaneously opening windows in which to see the world in a different way and doors that create opportunities. Won’t you come in?

About Lisa Acker