Look around you—you're surrounded by the work of creatives, from the clothes you wear to the very building you live in. The impact artists make is immense. And yet, they often get the short shrift when it comes to real support and resources. Enter Sarah Arison's cause, the National YoungArts Foundation, which was founded by her grandparents. The charity not only identifies and nurtures artists across a number of fields, assisting them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development, but—and this is key—continues to guide them beyond the initial discovery stage. They have access to leading cultural institutions, grants, fellowships, mentors…. "YoungArts aspires to create a strong community of alumni,” says Sarah, “and a platform for a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support.”
Here, we chat with the arts patron, who also sits on the boards of the American Ballet Theatre and MoMA and is president of the Arison Arts Foundation. She tells us all about YoungArts, what to see during Miami Art Week this month and how she joined this family business—after a curious detour from med school.
Tell us about YoungArts…
The National YoungArts Foundation was established in 1981 by my grandparents Lin and Ted Arison to identify and nurture the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts, and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. Through a wide range of annual programs, performances and partnerships with some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions, YoungArts aspires to create a strong community of alumni and a platform for a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support.
What inspired you to become involved, officially?
When I was 19 years old, I was a sophomore in college majoring in biology and planning on going to medical school. My grandmother asked me to go with her to the annual benefit for YoungArts in Miami in January, the Backyard Ball. I agreed to go with her, not because I was particularly interested in the organization or in the arts, but because I wanted to spend some time with my grandmother. While I was there, I was approached by the mother of one of the visual arts winners who had somehow heard my name and realized I was from the family that founded the organization. She grabbed me and said, "I just wanted to thank you so much for everything that you and your family have done for my son. He used to come home from school and sit on the floor and draw and I would yell at him to go do his 'real work'—his math or science… but seeing him here surrounded by the most talented young artists in the country, being recognized and mentored by luminaries in his field, being looked at for scholarships by some of the best universities because of his talent… I realize that this is his real work, and that I should support him in pursuing his passion." I was absolutely stunned by the incredible impact of YoungArts for the winners as well as for the perception of artists in our society. I realized the great importance of the work that YoungArts does, and feared that if someone from the family didn't get involved, it wouldn't continue to grow and flourish. The next day, I knocked on my grandmother's door and said, "Grandma, I want to help." I joined the board, went back to college and changed my major from biology to business and French with a minor in art history… and the rest is history!!!