ARTS is back!

February 20, 2018
Hi, my name is James Halliday, and in January I began as Executive Director of A Reason To Survive (ARTS). Our mission is to empower young people to reach their full potential through the trans-formative and therapeutic power of the arts. As a nonprofit based in National City, ARTS is committed to realizing that mission, while also serving the community to become a safe, inclusive, and healthy place where the next generation can flourish. It’s a bold vision, and we’ve got a great deal of work ahead of us. So here’s to fresh beginnings!
I’m excited to be here, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that — one month in — I haven’t figured it all out yet. What I do know is that the greatest learning on the job I’ve had thus far has come from spending time with colleagues and the young people who know ARTS best. A few weeks ago we went on field trip to International Friendship Park at the border for a unique bi national concert. The San Diego Symphony performed John Luther Adams’ piece Inuksuit. Besides the fascinating music and arrangement, it was a beautiful day at the beach:
I also know that while I’m picking up the story of ARTS mid-page, the organization is ready to begin a new chapter. And it will be with and through these colleagues, young people, and with the support of partners, volunteers, and donors that ARTS will not only survive, but thrive again.
Today, ARTS is in a period of transition. After years of leadership under its founding director, Matt D’Arrigo, we are in a rebuilding process. We must breathe new life into our fantastic 20,000 sq ft space, our programs, our partnerships, and re-connect with the families and youth in the community. With a staff of 3, our current capacity is far smaller than it’s been in the past, but we’re contracting teaching artists and resuming youth programming at the end of this month.
I’m very happy with the steps we’re taking. To keep up this momentum, I’m asking for your support:
To build our resource base – beyond what donors like you contribute! – we’re expanding our Board of Directors and deepening our relationships with the business community of National City and across the county. To improve our overall impact, we’re working with student interns and cultivating new partnerships in order to bolster ARTS programming and the quality of student services we offer. It takes a village, as they say.
Turning to the big vision for ARTS, here are some priority areas that I’m excited about:
  • Creating a youth council that empowers our young people to raise their voices, recognize their agency, cultivate their identities, while fostering a sense of ownership in their community
  • Establishing the ARTS Center as a regional hub for creative youth development, where multiple organizations and individuals work and collaborate under one roof to the benefit of the people and communities we serve
  • Collaborating with community and business partners, along with our public sector champions, to build a local talent pipeline into opportunities and careers in theregional creative economy

One of my favorite programs is Young Artists in Harmony, in collaboration with the Art of Elán. Here’s a photo of two of our students, Marco and Vanja, along with Deejay and Diego, two former ARTS students who have become teaching artists, following their smashingly successful performance at the San Diego Art Institute on January 30th

We’ve got more awesome events coming soon. Sneak peak: On March 30th, we’re excited to be hosting the La Jolla Playhouse’s POP Tour production of Home of the Brave, a performance that tells the stories of youth from military families about growing up (and moving all over the world). There’s a significant active military and veterans community in National City and across the South County, so as part of our community engagement we’ll be hosting a special reception before the performance.

I could go on and on about the great things happening again at ARTS. For now, I’ll leave you with this: The work we’re doing is vital. Everyday, we see the power of the creativity to lift lives and build self-confidence in young people. In the future, I look forward to sharing more of these stories. To catlayze our work, please consider donating right now:

I hope this finds you well, and l look forward to welcoming you at ARTS very soon.
With gratitude,

A letter from ARTS Board of Directors

August 18, 2017

Dear friends and ARTS supporters,

I’m writing to share with you some changes in ARTS’ immediate day-to-day operations. As you may have heard, ARTS recently adjusted staff levels. Rather than go forward with the original plan to significantly increase classes and students in the fall semester, our plan is to serve approximately the same number of youth we had during the spring semester.

ARTS’ new CEO Marty Remmell, who started on June 1, has shown tremendous resolve and dedication to ensuring ARTS’ mission will continue well into the future. I have great trust in her ability to elevate the organization’s scale and sustainability, and I ask that you join me in this sentiment. We are doing everything in our power to strengthen this great organization.

The Board of Directors wants a solid infrastructure that honors the organization’s mission and vision, and maximize ARTS’ budget. The steps we have taken were necessary to set us on a path towards this goal. Our ultimate desire is to continue ARTS’ mission of supporting youth in National City and San Diego County through the arts and creativity. We believe these changes will make that possible.

The next several months at ARTS will be used to recalibrate, expand and develop ARTS’ board, continue fundraising, and create a strategic plan with specific goals for student success. One of the first recommendations from Marty was to create a student advisory council comprised of current students and alumni who will consult on programming. Our aim is to create a more intentional integration between arts education, creative community development, and student support services (including life skills, leadership development, and career planning) so all students can realize their full potential through the arts and creativity.

ARTS students and families will be able to continue receiving student services support as well as participate in visual art, photography, writing, music, and maker classes. Please contact Laura Aparicio, Student Services Manager, at (619) 297-2787 ext. 2006 or for more information.

We plan to unveil the new strategic plan on October 21 at our Spooky Sweet 16 event, where we’ll toast to 16 years, honor ARTS Founder Matt D’Arrigo, and set our sights on a successful future.

If you have any questions, I invite you to contact me directly at Thank you for your understanding during this time, and for your continued support of ARTS.


Fabienne Hanks
Chair, A Reason To Survive Board of Directors

The ARTS Faire

The ARTS Faire opened its doors over 300 people on Saturday, June 8th 2016. This biannual showcase highlighted the artwork and performances ARTS students have been working on since January. It was a vibrant reflection of their prolonged dedication.
This successful Faire was a product of constant involvement throughout the process by our students, from basic assembly of the event to editing and selecting which artwork to display. At every stage of production, our students showed up with enthusiasm and creativity. The results were truly awesome!
The ARTS Faire was an excellent representation of our students’ dedication to their craft. The sense of ownership they take in making this event one of a kind is obvious upon walking into each space. Unique culminating events such as the ARTS Faire are made possible by the dedicated volunteers who are constantly available to assist us.
Visit our YouTube page to see a performance from the event: 

Paradise Creek Educational Gathering Place

ARTS, in collaboration with community members and the City of National City, created an educational gateway overlooking Paradise Creek, at the Southeast entrance of Kimball Park. Earlier this April, the community came together to help come up with a design for the project.

We had nearly 30 community members contribute their ideas! For 3 days after that, a team of local designers and artists worked all day to develop a design for the project, based on those ideas.The final design and build took 4 days to complete, with over 100 participating volunteers from the community.

Volunteers participated in following Art Projects: Painting an artistic representation of the stormwater and tidal flow on the concrete walkway; Building Up-cycled benches from recycled concrete materials; Creating artistic signage teaching visitors about storm water; Planting native and drought tolerant plants; Installing artistic Sculptural Elements; Landscaping: creating seating nooks and overlooks by artistically placing rocks, boulders and mulch. It was a blast and we look forward to the next one!

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ARTS is Recruiting: Paid Apprentices

Announcing PAID Apprenticeship Opportunities. Applications due by Monday March 28th. Selected participants must attend Orientation on Thursday 3/31 from 4pm-6pm. Apprenticeship pay $10/hr, average 8-10 hrs/wk for April 1 – July 1 (3 months).

Apprenticeships are by discipline:
3D Art & Design
Mixed Media
Landscape Architecture

Email Melinda Cooper at: for Job Descriptions and Applications details. Please include your contact information and discipline of interest.

ARTS is Recruiting: AmeriCorp Vista – Marketing Coordinator

Marketing Coordination: Increase A Reason to Survive (ARTS) presence and effectiveness through marketing and communication.

  1. Manage website updates
  2. Manage the ARTS Social Media outreach plan
  3. Manage creation and submission of e-newsletters
  4. Create and update new marketing and press releases under the supervision of the Director of Operations
  5. Assist Development Department with special appeals, annual report and cultivation/donor events


Program Benefits : Childcare assistance if eligible ,  Health Coverage* ,  Living Allowance ,  Training ,  Relocation Allowance ,  Choice of Education Award or End of Service Stipend .
*For details about AmeriCorps VISTA healthcare benefits, please visit:

ARTS is Recruiting: AmeriCorp Vista – Volunteer Coordinator


Volunteer Coordination: Recruit, place, retain and support all ARTS volunteers.

  1. Develop and implement an annual outreach plan to recruit new volunteers in line with organizational objectives.
  2. Interview, on-board and train all ARTS volunteers
  3. Integrate ARTS new program software, Salesforce, into all volunteer recruitment, training, placement and management practices
  4. On-going maintenance and implementation of previously established volunteer policies and procedures
  5. Deepen the volunteer experience
  6. Assist with the development of infrastructure for a corporate volunteer program, donor service days, and the annual National City service day
  7. Provide on-going professional development for volunteer assistant teaching artists and formalized pathways for volunteers to become paid teaching artists


Program Benefits : Childcare assistance if eligible ,  Health Coverage* ,  Living Allowance ,  Training ,  Choice of Education Award or End of Service Stipend ,  Relocation Allowance.
*For details about AmeriCorps VISTA healthcare benefits, please visit:

ARTS Is Hiring: Grants Manager

Grants Manager

The Grants Manager is an experienced, energetic and talented professional who contributes to ARTS in a variety of ways within the Development Department.  The Grants Manager will research and write public and private grant proposals and reports, take a leadership role in integrating grants into strategic fundraising goals, oversee grant & report submission schedules and manage the grants database. The Grants Manager will also provide ancillary support to community relations and beneficiary partner communications. Additionally this positions will provide grant prospect research, writing and reporting for a partner who contracts our grant management support service.  This person must have working knowledge of Creative Youth Development and youth arts programs.  Additionally this individual must work well in a strong team culture that values a commitment to excellence. Read more

Power of PEOPLE Drives Student Success

Empowering Students to See a Possible Future & the Tools to Obtain It! 

A Reason to Survive (ARTS) is committed to mentoring the creative and personal development of our students. We provide one-on-one mentorships, portfolio development, counseling, as well as internships and paid apprenticeships through ARTS Enterprises ©. We truly believe that creativity is an asset all youth should have entering this creative economy. We are dedicated to building the creative capital of our youth through this program to prepare them for a brighter future.

Meet Moises:

Moises first joined ARTS as a student in the Inspire program. Overtime Moises has found multiple mediums for creative expressions including; writing, poetry, multi-media, performing arts, and photography.

Creative and Career Manager, Melinda Cooper found that Moises was a very enthusiastic learner and would be a great candidate for the Empower program. Her mentoring has lead Moises to a paid apprenticeship,which will include a leadership position within the Media Arts Department.

We are honored that Moises shared this poem with us:

Lost in the Urbane
They say loneliness is the worst thing you could ever experience.
In some aspects that might be true.
I feel the beauty of everything comes out more often than not –
to experience something that is there without the interference of others:
the trees, the breeze, the urban landscape that is lost in all that lasts.
You can find yourself lost more often than not if you let yourself in.
– Moises

Double Your Impact with our Matching Gift Opportunity

Self expression, trusting relationships, and a safe place to belong give our students hope.

Meet Rosie:

Two years ago we moved here, but we didn’t have a place to live. I had no friends, no T.V., no phone, and I used to walk around and hang out in public spaces trying to meet people… one day I walked past this place, and saw art through the windows. I have bad anxiety, and it took me six months to apply.”

“Art saved my life, and it helped me discover who I am. Before I was here, I didn’t know who I was — I didn’t know what I was doing. When I came back to art, it helped my find myself. It is what I’m made of.”
Rosie is participating in a program in partnership with the San Diego Symphony painting piano’s that will be put in public places during the month of January. We hope you have a chance to see Rosie’s piano as well as the other beautiful pieces.


We’re thrilled to announce a year-end $35,000 matching gift opportunity. We’re grateful for two of our dedicated supports who have generously offered to match all gifts up to $35,000 now through December 31st.

Double your impact this holiday season  turn your $10 into $20, $100 into $200, $1,000 into $2,000!

Please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation today, so we can continue to provide healing, inspiring and empowering arts programs.

Thank you for your continued support.