Shine-A-Light: Project ARTogether
"For these programs, art is our social glue, its universality binding us all together."
Based in Oakland, CA, Project ARTogether uses the visual and performing arts to foster connections between refugees/immigrants and their host community. Hosting workshops with activities ranging from water coloring to dance circles to aromatherapy, this non-profit is dedicated to changing the world through as many art forms as possible.
Project ARTogether was founded by Leva Zand who is, surprisingly, not an artist. However, as she pointed out in an article for The Oakland Magazine, you don't need to be an accomplished musician to recognize the unifying power of the arts. A refugee from Iran herself, Zand was prompted to found ARTogether after the election of Donald Trump, which both frightened and frustrated her. The program started by just offering craft programs for refugee women but has quickly grown to offer countless workshops and events.
Even more impressive is ARTogether's education campaign which works to educate K-12 students in the Oakland area about the refugee experience and common misconceptions. They even provide lesson plans and advice to teachers for how to raise awareness of the plights of refugees and immigrants. Additionally, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, they are hosting a panel on September 29, 2020 at 6:00pm PST about Indigenous, Black, and Refugee lives. The intersection between these groups often goes overlooked, so this is a critically important conversation to be having.
Project ARTogether is not only an incredible organization, but it is also very inspirational. I've always hoped HeartBEATS would be able to provide similar educational and arts experiences to the ones they are hosting. I'm so fortunate to have stumbled across this program! I look forward to hearing about their events in the future.
If you're interested in learning more about their programming and mission, you can visit ARTogether.org.