'This Is Us'' Sterling K. Brown On Why Access To Arts Education Is Important For All Kids

"That's love."

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Since its founding in 2011, Thrive Collective has been evolving with the times. While it is still focused on improving public education for all children by connecting schools with entities that could help them, it found that classrooms had two common requests: strengthening arts programs and finding mentors for kids.

A 2014 report, titled State of the Arts, chronicled the decline of arts education in arguably the cultural capital of the world, New York City. Jeremy Del Rio, Esq. — the organization's executive director — said this explained that there was a reprioritization of funding and that learning institutions were having to make false choices.

"When you look historically, movements in any innovative time for science, technology, and engineering also had a corollary artistic component to it," Del Rio said. "You can't be a visionary scientist without having a creative mind — they go hand in hand. When you force the choice, you do a disservice to both expressions." 

"So recently there's been a move toward STEAM [science, technology, engineering, architecture, and math] and reinjecting arts back into that landscape," Del Rio continued. "When you think about all the movements, the Renaissance, for example, it's notable for its science, technology, and engineering as much as it was for the art. Without both, we'd still be in the dark ages. Without both, we rob society of something beautiful."

This is why Thrive Collective, along with help from Clorox and with some star power from This Is Us and Black Panther star Sterling K. Brown, refurbished a space in Harlem that will serve as a hub for youth to experience a range of programs — with the first one being arts-focused. As Del Rio explained, they start with arts because access to creativity "awakens imagination and invigorates possibility."

As for working with Brown, Del Rio said having such an accomplished artist of this stature "connects to the energy and the hustle and the drive that all these kids have." It's one thing for children to talk aspirationally about what is possible, but he said it's another thing to have a living expression of what's possible.

"Opening up a youth arts program for children that don't have it in their schools, it's giving them attention and saying that they matter," Brown said. "That's love."

To hear what else Sterling K. Brown had to say about the importance of arts education and mentorship, be sure to watch the video above.

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