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Thought Leader Uncategorized Arts & Culture Seen

The Arts as Community Builders

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Lara Smith

By Lara Smith, Managing Director, Dad’s Garage

If you have a parent who dies, would your co-workers show up to their funeral (even if they’ve never met your parent) simply to support you emotionally? If you have to leave town for a last-minute business trip, do you know who will feed your cat and water your plants? Who will give you a pep talk before an important interview? Who will eat ice cream with you at midnight when you are getting over a breakup?

Hopefully, we all have people in our lives who can fulfill these needs. For many of us, our friends and family support us emotionally, provide help when needed, and usher us through the good and bad times. But what if you are new to Atlanta, and don’t know anybody? Finding friends as an adult can be a very challenging task, and adult loneliness is a very real problem many people face. We need to create connections—build communities—so that we have the emotional, interpersonal, and financial support to lead a happy life.

So often we say “Art Builds Communities,” but what the heck does that even mean? What constitutes a “community,” and how do the arts support their development? For us at Dad’s Garage, we consider our company a community dedicated to transforming Atlanta through improvised and scripted comedy. We are a community of performers, designers, musicians, nonprofit administrators, volunteers, donors, board members, and many more people who support each other in the creation of our unique artform—improv!

We call this group of people—all the folks who contribute to making Dad’s Garage awesome—our “family.” Here are some aspects of our work that shows how we “build community” through the arts:

  1. Support Network: The arts build communities by connecting people of similar interests who can support each other in the pursuit of their best life. Our family supports and celebrates each other in the creation of new artwork. Not only do our performers create new shows together, but they go and support their friends as they try new ventures at other theatres. When one of our community members experience the loss of a loved one, we go to the funeral, we send flowers, and we show our love and support. We laugh together. We cry together. We support each other through life, because that’s what a family does.
  2. Safety Net: When our artists learn that their lease will not be renewed (because their apartment is becoming expensive luxury condos), they turn to our Dad’s Garage Family email listserv to find a new living situation they can afford. When someone in our company has an emergency financial need—like an expensive medical procedure or paying for a parent’s funeral costs—we will collect money to help support them. It’s amazing the impact that a few bucks from many people can have! When someone falls in our community, someone is always there to catch them. A community helps keep people on their feet, so they can continue to live a happy and successful life.
  3. Celebrations of Life: It’s sad and touching, but we’ve hosted memorials for family of the theatre who have passed away. This is probably one of the hardest parts of building community, but also a very important part. We give our family the space and opportunity to grieve in a way that feels comfortable to them. This helps us remember the light and love of those we lost, and gives us the chance to continue on their legacy.

When you support the arts, you are doing more than paying for the creation of cool and beautiful plays, paintings, and performances in Atlanta. Your support helps us create a stronger community. The more we are able to nurture community through the arts, the more vibrant and livable Atlanta becomes. The more independent and successful individuals in our community are, the more they can contribute to making our region a wonderful place to be.

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