Over the past year we, Via Arts, have collaborated with educators, students, citizens, artists, and organizers all over the state of Connecticut. In an age where most of our communication is done through a keyboard and screen, we have found that the power of presence is the most transformative of all tools.
In a recent partnership, we brought a group of students from Achievement First in New Haven to work with a group of residents of Tower One/Tower East assisted living community. The students were learning about the importance of identity through investigating the identity of a senior citizen. On the way to one visit, a student remarked he did not want to go because his elder was, "The opposite of everything I am, and everything I want to be."
We have created a world in which those who are different from us do not hold value. This is not a liberal or conservative view- this is a view of division. There is no doubt that there are people who intently believe that those who do not share their identity or view do not hold value- and spread hateful ideals into our world. Yet, there is also a more corrosive and silent belief, one that this young person had obviously learned- that the only people to value are people who are like us- or like we want to be. At some point, each of us have thought this and have acted upon it.
After our visit with the elders, the young man was aglow, he told me all about his senior partner; about his life, his accomplishments, children and marriage. The student still knew that they were not similar, but found worth and wonder in the story of this man's life.
That is the power of collaboration. We must take the time to acknowledge that each of us has an innate worth, and that this worth can cross political, racial, economic, lingual, gender, age, and identity lines. Together, we can accomplish tasks that alone seem insurmountable. Via Arts is here to forge and sustain those collaborations, between individuals, organizations, or movements. We believe that even if you are opposite of everything we are, there is a value in our collective work.