Sunday, April 25, 2010

TAP's Conception

I love every opportunity I get to talk about TAP and what has become my biggest passion: the arts. TAP was conceived in a 3rd year Drama in Education classroom at Brock University where I and 17 of my classmates, were infused with the desire to share our talents with youth from our professors’ hometown in Kingston, Jamaica. The course was called “Alternative Forms of Theatre” and in our particular year, the country of focus was Jamaica and our professor was a Jamaican-born dub poet. After seven months of hard work running fundraisers, planning arts workshops and organizing all the finite details, the dream crystallized into reality in June 2007 with the first ever TAP Pilot Project.

One of the most distinct feelings I had upon landing on the island was fear. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be good enough; that they wouldn’t respond to our ideas; or that there would be no kids in attendance. All of those fears dissipated quickly the first day of the program. We brought enough white t-shirts and tye dye for 100 students and to our delight, we didn’t have enough (we designated some of the students to spray the tye dye). Over 100 kids showed up that first day. On an average day there were approximately 80 students, ranging in age from 7 to 18 years old, who participated in a series of workshops including mask-making, theatre, dance, music and creative writing. After successful program, the students hosted a showcase for their parents and teachers to display their performance pieces (plays, dances, songs, etc) which they wrote and produced on their own.  We were students ourselves and although the team was thrown into many unknown situations, the more we came together as a team and let go of control, the better the result.

Fast forward to July 2010. The team will head to Jamaica to run the fourth annual arts program. Approximately 30 of the students who attended the Pilot Project return year after year and altogether we have welcomed over 200 students from across the country to participate in a free, two-week arts program. The first year I asked myself, “Will there be any students there?” and now I’m asking myself how I’m going to turn them away. There is a buzz around the TAP Program in the five communities we work with. This summer will be my fourth year in a row and I am now the Program Director. After seeing first-hand the transformative power of the arts, I am impelled to work with TAP to give as many students as we can an opportunity to find alternative ways to voice their opinions, express emotions, develop new talents, and for some, even learn how to swim.

What makes TAP such a great organization is that young adults are given the chance to learn about themselves and others, and to enhance their art form from the artistic exchange they have with the participants. In 2009, TAP began the Scholarship Program offering two members from TAP's Youth Leadership Team the opportunity to attend the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. They are currently completing the second of a four-year Bachelor of Arts program.

A wise author named Steven Pressfield wrote in his book entitled “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles“, “When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty” and ”there never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.”

I truly believe you can do anything you put your mind to.

Tiffany Stull, Co-Founder and  Executive Director

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