From Artist to Changemaker: SAY Sí Youth Go Global
What does it mean to be a changemaker? At SAY Sí, this question has become more relevant than ever. Back in the summer of 2015—which in nonprofit time feels like two years ago—our administrative team put our heads together and decided that moving forward we would frame our community vision around this very term. We thought about who we are as an organization, the role we play in our students’ lives, and their own role in the world – “changemaker” just fit.
At SAY Sí, reciprocal and peer-to-peer learning are a pivotal part of our culture. Teaching artists are mentors to student artists, and students very naturally become mentors to each other. The cycle of mentorship continues as students graduate, creating a community of innovators who have the capacity to create change in San Antonio and the world. The truth is that once you belong to the SAY Sí art community, there are these invisible threads that link you back. Sometimes they are taut and pulling and other times they are loose. But they are always there.
On February 9th, we hosted a “Changemakers Press Conference” to announce our next phase as SAY Sí changemakers with three new avenues of support from: The Santikos Charitable Foundation, Adobe Project 1324 and the City of San Antonio Department of Creative and Cultural Development.
San Antonio Area Foundation Director, Dennis Noll, spoke at our press conference about the legacy of the late theatre entrepreneur, John L. Santikos. He stated, “During the last four years of his life, Mr. John Santikos and I spent a lot of afternoons talking about the things that he cared about and the things that he loved. The truth is that Mr. Santikos loved art; he loved artists, particularly young artists, and he loved SAY Sí.”
Before he passed, Mr. Santikos wanted to ensure that San Antonio’s nonprofit community thrived. Through the San Antonio Area Foundation he coordinated a historic gift of 6 million dollars for 123 organizations – many of them arts and cultural organizations – to make immense change in San Antonio. We at SAY Sí were humbled to be one of the first organizations in San Antonio to receive a John Santikos Passions Grant. For this grant, Mr. Santikos chose six San Antonio organizations that would be part of a competitive process for funding, and we were selected to receive a $200,000 grant to strengthen our film and media programs with updated equipment and supplies for students. The true impact of Mr. Santikos’ gift will endure. By choosing to fund arts and culture, his support will exponentially move the needle for other cause areas like education, downtown development and economic competitiveness.
Looking outward on a national level, we also announced that we have been recognized by Adobe Project 1324 with a Creative Catalyst Award. We were selected as one of 7 organizations worldwide that support and inspire the next generation of creatives. Adobe, through their social responsibility initiative Project 1324, has committed to supporting the work we do in developing our young artists into creative leaders and professionals.
Project 1324 also awarded SAY Sí an Innovation Grant to fund a new SAY Sí-led initiative called Project Papalote (Project Kite). Through Project Papalote, SAY Sí youth and instructors will travel to Boston, Massachusetts; Salt Lake City, Utah; Mexico City, Mexico and Kolkata, India to collaborate with other creative youth development organizations to create media projects that focus on the theme of identifying borders and breaking boundaries.
Strengthening our place on the global stage, San Antonio’s Department for Culture and Creative Development, in conjunction with the International Relations Office, will sponsor five SAY Sí students to attend the Annual Sister Cities Youth Leadership Summit this July. Through the four-day Summit, Sister Cities International empowers young people to think globally; spurring a new generation of citizen diplomats who become instrumental in promoting peace, mutual respect, and prosperity.
So what does this mean for San Antonio and SAY Sí? Well, for one, our students’ capacity to make global change is stronger than ever. As an organization we remind the youth we work with that they matter; that their ideas, their vision and their art are important. Now, our students will be able to contribute to a global artistic conversation. They can see firsthand their potential to make change beyond San Antonio. Creative thinking allows one to tap into the part of the brain that makes unlikely and unexpected connections. Now, as global citizens, SAY Sí students have a world of resources to tap into. Finally, it means that the work we are doing at SAY Sí is creating larger ripples for San Antonio’s future. SAY Sí shares SA2020’s vision. We believe that San Antonio can lead the world as a creative community – and it starts with our young people.
This recent support ignites our commitment to San Antonio’s young people and reminds them that they really are the next generation of creative leaders and changemakers for our city, the country and the world. We have a feeling those invisible threads that hold our community together are going to need to be a little bit longer.
Interested in viewing or purchasing some of the incredible art made by SAY Sí students? Check out their Small Scale, Big Change silent auction, running through March 25th.