Christine’s Corner is a new recurring blog feature from Interim Board Chair Christine Friello-Fini. Keep an eye out for more Christine’s Corner posts!
This week, for the first time, I had the joy to witness and participate in one of ARTZ Philadelphia’s most profound experiential art activities. Music in the Neighborhood is a monthly series of live and live-streamed performances in English and Spanish by musicians with deep roots in Philadelphia neighborhoods. It is generously sponsored by Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as a satellite program of our ARTZ in the Neighborhood project. This particular session was co-hosted by Esperanza Health Center in Hunting Park in partnership with their “Young at Heart” seniors program, bringing people from the neighborhood together in person to enjoy the spectacular sounds of Mike Boone and the Latin Binge!
After being a casual volunteer for ARTZ Philadelphia for a few years, I feel blessed and grateful to be helping the organization for the next six months in the role of interim board chair. In taking on this great (and awesome!) responsibility, I feel that it is essential for me to experience all the programming ARTZ has to offer, meet and listen to the members of the communities we serve, and support our staff in the fulfillment of their passions. This way, I hope to discover how best to help the organization, its board of directors, and its constituents.
Where I live in Millville, New Jersey, I have a small but strong network of neighbors who have openly accepted me as a transplanted New Yorker. One of these, my precious friend, Mr. Bob L., took a chance on me to take the hour drive into Philly to attend this event with me. Bob is a senior citizen with several serious health challenges who served as the care partner to his wife. Our time together in the car on the way in was a joy, allowing us to catch up with one another in private time that we seldom get.
We arrived at Esperanza and received a warm welcome from ARTZ’s Cleo Smalls, community engagement and volunteer manager; Madelyne G., community liaison for ARTZ in Hunting Park; and Joe S., one of our community advisory group members in Hunting Park. They all welcomed us as “newbies” and sparked the crowd to embrace us. We also met several lovely members of Esperanza’s staff, including Lianette Pappaterra, community programs manager, and Courtney and Grace, who were helping with refreshments.
The music was superb! The band brought out the best in everyone, with toes and fingers tapping, heads bopping, and many breaking out into full and fabulous dancing! I will need help learning how to dance next time as I have no rhythm and am squarely on the introverted side. Lol!
So what was the epiphany here? Indeed, seeing the joy of all who attended, not only in the music but in their established connections and their budding new relationships building in the moment, was inspirational to observe. However, the big moment was when Bob turned to me and said that this music was a sonic reminder of a two-week trip to Cuba that he took on an educational visa just after his beloved wife had passed. Bob is a photographer and wanted to photo-document Cuba as it was at the time. He spent his time there taking pictures, meeting people, being welcomed, and enjoying glorious food and music. As I listened to his experiences, I realized that I may never have learned about this critical time in his life had we not been at this beautiful event together. I asked if he would tour me through his photos someday, and he said yes. It turns out that this very activity – sharing the images of our lives and discussing them in community – is one of the standard experiences shared as part of the ARTZ in the Neighborhood project.
On our way back to Millville, Bob told me how much he enjoyed the event and to count on him to join me for many more ARTZ Philadelphia events. I’m so glad! Please consider investing time to experience ARTZ Philadelphia’s programs for yourself and bring your loved ones to share the joy. I genuinely believe that you will be amazed, and that you and yours will be enriched and grow in love from the experience.
Meeting Where We Are,
Christine Friello-Fini returned to the ARTZ Philadelphia Board in June 2022, where she is currently serving as the Interim Board Chair and sharing her passion for our mission with all of her fellow Board members. In her day job, Christine is an organizational development and process consultant. She and her siblings were care partners for her parents. Her father lived with dementia in the years leading up to his death.