AIR’s AmeriCorps VISTA caitlin little (she/they) talks about their move from Nebraska to New Hampshire, their favorite AIR memory, and saying “yes!” to new experiences.
What is your role at Arts In Reach?
I am the Business Development and Community Outreach VISTA. I’ve worked at Arts In Reach for 11 months.
Why did you get involved with Arts In Reach?
I moved here from Omaha to work for Arts In Reach. In Omaha I ran an arts nonprofit, and did a lot of community building through the arts. I also volunteered for Omaha Girls Rock, so I thought Arts In Reach was a cool combination of community building and helping out teens to better express themselves. I thought it would be something cool and different to expand my experiences professionally and physically go somewhere I’ve never been.
What does Arts In Reach mean to you?
I think Arts In Reach is a really amazing way for teens to create meaningful connections with their communities. Not just with teaching artists, but with themselves and understanding how they fit in the greater scheme of things. I also think being in a safe artistic community is a way to explore yourself personally. It’s a great way for them to create meaning in their lives. I think so many people have things they struggle with. To have an opportunity to create your own potential is really powerful. Empowering people is important no matter what your age, so if we can start them young that’s great.
What is a piece of advice you have for Arts In Reach teens?
Say yes! Do it! Do the thing! If you want to do it, try it out. You’ll probably make a mistake. If you don’t make a mistake, that’s cool. But if you do, that’s cool too. Everything’s funny eventually. If it’s not good at the time, it’ll be something for you to look back on and either learn from experience or to know to never do it again. All of those are very valuable, but the best stories and the best experiences are from saying “yes.”
Do you have a favorite Arts In Reach memory?
I had the amazing opportunity to co-teach a devised theater workshop and it was quite literally THE BEST SHOW EVER. I was blessed to be able to work with powerhouse performer extraordinaire, Gemma Soldati and together we created a week of creative exploration that culminated in a totally original stage play! I loved getting to play and explore everyday with the teens and help them explore their ideas, make those a reality and create something amazing as a team. It takes a lot of heart and trust to create like that and I am still in awe of what they produced and the things we all learned. Teaching is so much more than transmitting.
Do you have a background in the arts?
I’ve always been involved in the arts. I sang and played instruments all through school. In my early twenties my friends and I decided to rent a space and make it into a DIY gallery space. We did a lot of nontraditional fundraising to build that space up from scratch, which then turned itself into a DIY arts and community nonprofit. I feel like the arts have always been a driver in my life. I think there’s something really meaningful about grassroots projects because they speak to the community at large. Sometimes the arts can be seen as pretentious or pandering, and I think this was an organic expression of creativity, partnership, and community.
I’ve always done performance art. I’ve done musical theater more formally, but over the last few years I worked at a nonprofit theater as the Assistant Director of a troupe where we made a couple of different fully devised experimental theatrical works. My personal performance practice deals a lot with self, ritual, and understanding of my femme physical body. On top of that I’ve done a lot of curatorial work- curating a lot of outside artists, mixing genres, bending expectations of what people see in traditional gallery shows. Also, activating nontraditional spaces, whether that be shop windows, backs of trailers, centers of city streets, somebody’s front porch… I’ve done a lot of different and eclectic things.
Do you have any parting words?
I think the arts are an essential function for cultural and economic growth. I think it’s really important to see its essential function and to honor that by giving folks opportunities that are barrier free. Continue to empower people in whatever way that makes the arts a priority. #Payartists