A conversation with Catherine

Yes, I love poetry and spoken word; I love art in all its iterations. And it’s all because I love youth and our community. And everyone who has joined the vision feels the same.

Since the Phoenix Rising curriculum was developed over the past 30 years that launched Art from Ashes, dozens of nonprofits focused on poetry and youth have blossomed throughout the state. This is such good news for all of us—in particular for youth who haven’t had access to the arts or a viable means of expression.

And Art from Ashes is still unique—not just because of our history and longevity, but because our focus is not on the craft but on the creation—which are completely different things to us.

Whether someone writes well or communicates effectively is just not on our radar and never has been. We care about the source of the inner dialogue that oppresses young people and dictates negative choices and behaviors. Our process is to encourage youth who are struggling with negative messages to realize they have the power to change their story. Poetry and art are amazing tools for that purpose.

Soulspeak is our source, our journey, our destination—and that mission hasn’t changed in the 17 years we’ve been representing the community.

Basically what Art from Ashes does well is change lives for the better. If it didn’t, we would actually choose to stop. Along the way, most young people fall in love with writing and the arts, causing an appreciation of creativity in themselves and others, major shifts in academic achievement, a desire to speak up for themselves, and a host of other positive opportunities they are willing to see and step into.

The data proves it. At first we resisted having to even record data, because it was enough to hear the voices of hundreds of young people over the years tell us that until they took our program they were contemplating suicide, and that they had gone back to their families, found jobs, returned to school, gotten off the streets, ended abusive relationships… it was more than enough. And then the statistics confirmed that our program does indeed work on multiple levels—academic interest, violence prevention, alcohol and drug misuse issues, appreciation of art, self-worth (always the point)—to the extent that we’ve won numerous local and state awards and have been acknowledged as one of the top 50 programs in the United States by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities… FIVE TIMES.

Theo Wilson (AKA Lucifury) on the power of poetry and how it changes lives.

[watch on YouTube]

And like most businesses, agencies and individuals, this year has caused us to shift everything we know how to do… and trust that it will still meet a need that seems overwhelming.

As a very small grassroots agency serving a population that has been at least neglected and at worst denigrated, there are five ways we have counted on community support:

Because it has taken much of this year to revamp for online purposes a highly interactive program that has previously depended on personal engagement with the youth, we have really endured significant funding challenges.

It’s not that we aren’t still accomplishing our goals; in fact, I was a little surprised at how meaningful the online program is to young people. But it is true that the numbers for youth reached and collaborations have dropped while we learned what we had to learn, invested funds in new approaches, and attempted to partner with other agencies and schools that also have struggled with funding during this difficult year.

So it’s you we turn to in order to keep serving. If you’ve ever been engaged, or if you’ve ever been interested in what we do, please choose one of the five ways above you can support our work or just plunk down $5 to $10 here (and be sure to add some zeros if you can!). We have cool little surprises we can send you for anything over $100, because we’ll be so grateful and want you to have a little something that reminds you of us.

If you need more information on how to support us, we have it. Please contact us. If you have a word of advice or some expertise to offer, let us know. If you have resources to share, we could use them.

As PTSD and various other mental health problems increase, we are ready to employ our significant skills and experience and our prodigious passion to meet the needs of young people. And we were never able to do any of this without you. We won’t be able to continue without you. Please look into your heart and give what you can. The time has never been more urgent than now.

Because this is a conversation, I’d invite you to respond. The general email form to info@ will reach me or you can comment below. I hope to hear from you!

Warm wishes as we move into a new year,


Executive Director, Art from Ashes