Jennifer D. Dobbs is executive director for the ArtsBridge Foundation at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The foundation provides arts education programs and experiences that many public schools no longer provide.
It’s easy for me to be very passionate about what I do because the arts played a part in my life as my personal savior. The arts are foundational, and I take that responsibility and honor seriously. I have a drive to never fail anyone I have committed to. If I say I am offering arts education programs, if my vision says that the arts are open to all, then by golly I am going to figure out how to do it. Maybe that comes from having World War II parents who cared about community, whose word was bond. All those leaders before us, they didn’t give up when things got tough.
On December 8, we had our first field trip in two years, bringing kids in to see the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker. It felt so good to have students in the building again, but a lot of families and schools are challenged to get to the Cobb Energy Centre. I have been really concerned about students who don’t have access to bussing or broadband, especially in Middle and South Georgia. We need to take the arts to those families.
The pandemic presented opportunities and forced us to solve problems in new ways. With Zoom we can now connect with folks outside metro Atlanta in a more intimate, meaningful way. Students can talk with Broadway stars one-on-one — they feel really special in that moment. That really excites me. I am also excited about a new pilot partnership with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. We’re focusing on branches that have an exceptionally tough time accessing resources. Through this partnership, starting in September 2022, we will take our teaching artists to K-12 students across Georgia. The students will have access to an array of the arts such as theater, visual arts, hip-hop or slam poetry. Fingers crossed, we hope it grows. I can’t do all things, but I can do what I’m doing now to the best of my ability.