What better way to conclude a lovely summer in Oakland than to spend it in the company of those who love this city as much as you do, dancing to live music and dining by the water, all to support the creative enrichment of local public school youth?

On Thursday, August 28, The Oakland Fund for the Arts will have its annual fundraiser on the patio of Bocanova in Jack London Square. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with wine and hors d’oeuvres, followed by music and dinner, and concluding at 9 p.m. with a silent auction and raffle.

The Oakland Fund for the Arts is an organization that grants money to visual and performing arts programs in under-served Oakland public schools. Since its first donation in 1996, OFFTA has raised over half a million dollars to fund 121 programs in 58 schools.

“Our goal is to give kids who may live a pretty restricted life a taste of creativity… We want to give kids a new way to look at the world: what it means to look at the world understanding color and form and shape and music and drama,” explains Laurie Pitman, Board President of Oakland Fund for the Arts.

Every year, OFFTA receives many more applications than they can accept for funding art programs in Oakland. The money they accrue through their fundraiser will go towards accepting more of those applications, and also towards the programming already thriving.

Arts education is the first to be cut from public schools when the nation faces a budgeting deficit. Twenty years ago, three passionate individuals serving on the Oakland city Arts Council recognized artistic expression as especially crucial in low-income neighborhoods and began forming a nonprofit to support dwindling programs.

Studies show that student participation in the arts motivates them to learn in other subjects, as well as helping to develop empathy and social competence. When funding gets cut, the educational equity gap in Oakland and in schools across the nation widens drastically. Affluent communities are often able to compensate reduced funding for art programs through private donations and after-school lessons. In contrast, that same reduction in funding affects the overall education of at-risk youth in profoundly negative ways such as higher truancy, lower academic test scores, and decreased civic engagement.

In addition to the 16,000 young people OFFTA has nurtured through their programs, they also partner with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco to recruit talented high school juniors and seniors from their funded art programs in East Bay public schools to begin building portfolios and hone artistic endeavors in a ten-week summer program.

The Oakland Fund for the Arts draws attention to the importance of art in our individual lives as well as within our evolving culture. How we explore ourselves, relate to each other, and perceive the world at large and our unique place in it, are all variants of this universal language that, from the beginning of time, has helped us derive and attribute meaning in our lives. Art pushes our imaginations and challenges our opinions, urging us always forward with an understanding of where we come from.

An arts education is what attunes us to succeed in a society and in a world that pushes us more towards the abstract and conceptual. Pitman sums it up in a poignancy that’s hard to argue: “[Art] makes these kids better students, when they have something else to relate to in their lives.​ Making art in school is fun, but it isn’t just that–the bottom line of arts education is that it makes you a smarter kid.”

To support arts education in Oakland’s public schools, purchase tickets for Oakland Fund for the Art’s fundraiser here.

For more on the studies and analyses conducted over the past few decades on the deep impact arts education has on academic, societal, psychological, and emotional potential, click here.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at simonelarson@oaklandlocal.com

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