Benjamin Solotiare, Manager of Volunteer Services and Community Engagement at The Fortune Society

Creative Expression Leads To Healthier Minds And Bodies

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I want to relate to you three short experiences I had at The Fortune Society recently.

First, I observed a class we have in the Fortune Education Dept. on video animation. I listened to two students discuss what a conversation would be like between two people in prison — one older gentleman who had been inside a long time and a younger guy who had just arrived. Both students were discussing intently how each character related to the other, where they came from, and what they would say. After about 10 minutes, they had come up with part of a script to record for an animated short they were working on about these characters.

On another day, the sounds of laughter and applause were coming from the Fortune Library in Long Island City. Inside, our resident acting troupe, The Fortune Tellers, were in the middle of rehearsals for their upcoming performance at Fortune’s Arts Festival. Our 10 actors, along with teaching artists Lucas Rooney and Sarah Grosman from The Public Theater, were working on their individual characters and scenes they were developing. It was a roomful of horses, koalas, gorillas, and a bull, all singing, talking, and sharing stories. The group is really made up of young and old, men and women, and clients and staff, but together there are no categories, just fellow performers.

Lastly, I saw walking our halls the other day a young gentleman who had graduated our Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) Program several weeks earlier. He had been a model participant with good attendance, and had left in good standing, but it’s not often people continue to return on their own. He was back because of the music classes we had started here in the middle of his placement. He had been taking guitar lessons and had performed several times in the Music Café on the fourth Thursday of every month. He was so moved by and committed to the classes that he kept coming back of his own accord, learning more and continuing to perform.

Fortune has many programs that our participants need — drug treatment, employment services, mental health, and education among them. We also have many programs that our participants want, including arts programing, music, theater, film, writing, and more. The latter are all just as therapeutic and life-affirming as the former.

We at Fortune recognize that the opportunity for creative expression leads to healthier minds and bodies as well as teaching vocational skills and building community. And so, from April 27-30, Fortune will be having its 2nd Annual Fortune Arts Festival … and all of the people mentioned in the stories above will be part of that Festival.

For four days, Fortune will turn its attention to music and theater and people expressing themselves and their creativity. And when the festival is over, we will begin again — writing more skits and playing more music — because art affects us all, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Categories: Community, Events


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