Women’s Fund of Smith County is hosting Arts in the Atrium in The Plaza Tower Atrium from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Thursday September 29th. This event will feature the work of four wonderful nonprofits: Caldwell Arts Academy, East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Tyler Museum of Art and Young Audiences of Northeast Texas and is intended to provide insight into how their services are impacting Smith County. Guests will get to see students perform and also hear about the various programs offered by each agency.

One of the most rewarding things about WFSC membership is the right to vote on the various grant projects put forward every year. The Grants Committee reviews every request and ensures that only the applicants meeting WFSC’s criteria and qualifications are moved forward for a vote, but then it is the individual members who decide through their votes to whom WFSC will award a grant. For the past several years, WFSC has received applications covering a variety of areas, including: arts & culture, education, health & wellness, and human services.  With so many urgent and disparate needs it can often be hard to decide between so many worthy agencies. WFSC believes the more informed our membership is, the easier this process may become, which is why we often host grants in action events featuring a single grant recipient. Arts in the Atrium is simply an extension of that idea.

A lot of people don’t realize the impact arts have on children and the community.  It has been shown that art can greatly improve cognitive development, social skills, academic performance and attendance in school children. Drop-out rates are lower in students given an arts education. Arts education can also help unify communities and create cultural and personal connections. The arts have also been proven to improve individual well-being and enhance overall creativity, confidence and self-esteem. It can help those children in poverty, break out of that pattern. It is also undisputed that arts are good for local business and tourism. Consider for example the upcoming Palette of Roses Art Show (WFSC’s own member Dace Kidd, is one of the artists in the show this year) and the Edom Art Festival.

One of our four featured nonprofits is Caldwell Arts Academy. It is an amazing, unique magnet school that offers students the opportunity to participate in all types of artistic endeavors. Our community is lucky to have an institution of this caliber right here in Tyler. Caldwell integrates art into every aspect of its curriculum. It offers classes in a variety of dance forms, music, ceramics, visual arts, theater and more. If you get a chance to visit Caldwell, you will be impressed by the drive and enthusiasm of everyone on the campus.

East Texas Symphony Orchestra is a world class symphony that performs several concerts a year here, but a lot of people don’t know that ETSO also partners with Carnegie Hall in the Link Up program. Through this collaboration ETSO is able to bring music education to over 3000 area elementary school students each year.

The Tyler Museum of Art is another gem in our midst.  Education is a key component of TMA’s mission statement and in addition to having a fantastic museum, it hosts numerous public programs each year. The High School Art Exhibition is one example. Senior art students are selected by their art teachers to participate, and the top five entrants are selected by a jury of art professors and then honored at a reception and awards ceremony.

Young Audiences of Northeast Texas is another amazing nonprofit in our area. It is an affiliate of one of the oldest and most respected arts-in-education organizations in the nation. Young Audiences provides arts programs in all disciplines in public, private and charter schools throughout the area. Amy Baskin, the Executive Director of Young Audiences put it best when she told me: “We are in the Prevention business!” She is right, participation in the arts has been shown to prevent certain other problems from ever arising.

It is just these types of stories we want our members and guests to hear at Arts in the Atrium. If you are interested in attending, please call the WFSC at 903-509-1771.

Deborah Race is a charter member of the Women’s Fund of Smith County and the Vice-Chair of Governance. She also serves on the board of Hospice of East Texas Foundation and Texas Bar Foundation. She practices law in downtown Tyler.