Sr. Ann Keefe / CityArts Creativity and Social Justice Fund
(Photo courtesy of Corey Hendrickson)
“We wanted to pay tribute to the legacy Sister Ann created for our communities,” explains Barbara Wong, executive director of Providence CityArts for Youth. To accomplish that, CityArts established this organization endowment that bears the name of its founder, the late Sister Ann Keefe.
The seeds of CityArts were planted when Sister Ann, a member of the ministry team at St. Michael’s Church in South Providence, was driving through the neighborhood years ago, and youth on a street corner mischievously approached her car to rock it as she stopped. She got out of her car to speak with them, but they ran off. The incident stayed with her, and she organized community members to assess the opportunities available for youth like our “street corner kids” who live in some of Providence’s poorest and most diverse neighborhoods. “While the benefits of arts in young peoples’ lives were well understood, the inequity of arts opportunities for low income youth became very obvious,” Barbara states.
Backed by community and Sister Ann’s activism for peace and social justice, CityArts was launched as a free summer arts camp in St. Michael’s basement in 1992. After three years of record success, CityArts acquired and transformed the Berkander Building on Broad Street into a year-round arts center. Sister Ann then noted, “CityArts is not just about filling time. Rather, it's about changing children's hearts and giving them a new view of what life can be. And it's about social change. For when you change children's hearts, our hearts get changed too, and the quality of life in neighborhoods is improved.”
CityArts now serves more than 900 elementary and middle school youth in afterschool, summer, and in-school residency programs. “We provide a positive, nurturing environment where kids can be creative, find their voice, be resilient problem-solvers, and build bright futures,” notes Barbara.
“Our board and donors recognize the Rhode Island Foundation as a trustworthy steward of our fund to invest in our future, to secure Sister Ann’s legacy, and to sustain creative learning opportunities for youth who need these programs the most,” Barbara concludes.