Saved by the Brush! ARTS Center gives San Diego kids a reason to survive … and succeed

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

In 2001, after a terrible year spent watching his mother succumb to cancer and almost losing his sister to the disease, Matt D’Arrigo founded ARTS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children overcome life challenges by learning to express themselves through the arts. His own love of art and music sustained him through that year and the grieving that followed. So he set up the Pat D’Arrigo ARTS Center (named for his mother) to help others as he had helped himself.

“Heal, Inspire and Empower” is the ARTS motto, and its 7,000-square-foot “creative space” at NTC Promenade includes a music room, media arts lab, painting and ceramic studio, performance space, and a gallery where student works are on display and for sale. ARTS’ primary targets are children facing chronic or terminal illness, abuse or neglect, physical and emotional disabilities, poverty and homelessness.

Every year, ARTS enables more than 10,000 young people to “explore their creative soul and transform their lives” through a range of community outreach projects, apprenticeships and scholarships, and a transportation system called, appropriately, Van Go.

. ARTS “Mama Intern” Kane Rors is assisted by ARTS Creative Director Rob Tobin. Lonnie Hewitt

ARTS offers not just A Reason To Survive, but A Reason To Succeed.

One of its recent success stories is 19-year-old Kane Rors, who first found her way to ARTS a year and a half ago. A difficult home life and a struggle with addiction had kept her from fully exploring her talent for drawing, but the ARTS Empowerment Program helped her realize her potential. She soon became the “mama intern,” a mentor to other students and interns, and was just awarded a scholarship to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where she plans to produce her own graphic novel.

The new development director of ARTS is La Jolla’s Kathryn Stephens, who has been active in Las Patronas for the past decade and was chair of its ARTRAGEOUS Jewel Ball in 2007.

A former Eileen Ford model, Stephens taught art for several years at Bird Rock Elementary and more recently designed murals for the fifth graders’ annual mosaic projects.

When she first came to ARTS, it was love at first sight.

“The minute I walked in, I felt instantly welcomed, and so energized by the creativity all around me,” she said. “They happened to be looking for a new Director of Development, and the job description exactly matched what I’d been doing for so long — fundraising and art.”

Since November, Stephens has been organizing ARTS’ 10th anniversary gala, which will feature four stars from the original cast of “Jersey Boys,” including Honorary Chair Christian Hoff. The show, which premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 2004, went on to Broadway and won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2006.

Kathryn Stephens

After the gala, Stephens plans to start teaching ARTS classes in painting and mosaics. “It’s such a happy place, with a great staff,” she said. “I look forward to going to work, and I truly enjoy knowing we’re making a difference. I wake up happy, I’m happy there, and I always leave happy. And I still feel that the best is yet to come.”

If you go

What: ARTS 10th Anniversary Gala

Why: Celebrating 10 years of healing, inspiring and empowering youth through the arts

When: 6:30 p.m. to midnight, May 14,

Where: NTC Promenade, 2820 Roosevelt Road, Point Loma

Highlights: Cocktails, silent auction, three-course dinner by local celebrity chefs, after-party rocks till midnight

Tickets: $350 VIP; $200 preferred.

Contact: Kathryn Stephens at or (619) 297-2787, ext. 2002.

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Posted by Staff on May 4, 2011. Filed under A & E, Art Galleries & Institutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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