(Photo by Kara Foran)
Do you like NASCAR? Do you like poetry? Do you like funding news? If you said “yes” to all three, you’re super weird but you’ll like this: Arts education nonprofit ArtWell will have its logo plastered on racecar driver Jimmie Johnson‘s helmet this August.
And because we don’t imagine there’s too much crossover between Generocity readership and the broader NASCAR community, here’s what you’ll really want to know: The nonprofit is one of five to win $25,000 in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Blue Bunny Helmet of Hope competition.
ArtWell is the only nonprofit in Pennsylvania to make it to the top 10. The funds are only designated for work the nonprofit does in public schools — and considering the nonprofit partners with public schools to bring arts programming into the classroom, the prize will contribute to a sizable portion of ArtWell’s programming.
In the nonprofit’s 16 years of existence, said executive director and founder Susan Teegan, the nonprofit has worked with nearly 400 partners.
"We were founded knowing we live in really complex times that demand our greatest resources."
“We work directly in schools, often with a teacher in a classroom,” Teegan said. “We were founded knowing we live in really complex times that demand our greatest resources. The arts are a powerful realm of transformation and thinking in and out of the box and connecting with people across bridges.”
Anecdotally, a former ArtWell student named Marcus, Teegan said, told her “nobody has ever listened to him in his life” until he picked up poetry through the program. Within a few months, Marcus was presenting poetry to legislators and representatives of the Jewish community in Harrisburg.
“He was scared in Harrisburg, but when he looked up and saw everyone listening to him, he felt like he was having his own personal press conference,” Teegan said. Now, Marcus is getting his master’s degree in sports science.
Students like Marcus in ArtWell’s Poetry Slam Team will be finalists in Philly Youth Poetry Movement‘s Slam League finals this Friday. The competition is typically reserved for teams from public schools, but because ArtWell is a nonprofit, it’s able to compete with a team of students whose schools don’t have teams.
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“We found in schools especially that we’ve really been able to use poetry to build literacy skills,” said Program Director Julia Terry, adding that some students never knew they could express themselves through writing until they discover poetry. “They see that it can really be an outlet. Some students have been affected by trauma and don’t have a vehicle to express that.”
Speaking of vehicles, keep your eyes peeled for that ArtWell logo on Johnson’s helmet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on August 7.-30-
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