Voices for Any Given Child Indy: Paying It Forward
Do you remember those teachers who made the most significant impact on your life?
While every teacher I had helped me on my journey to become an educated person, there are two teachers who inspired me to work harder and to learn more about the world around me. The first teacher in my story is Mr. Reinhardt.
Mr. Reinhardt taught my high school’s humanities classes. I had two years of humanities taught by Mr. Reinhardt, the first as a high school freshman and the second as a high school senior. During those two years, our class studied all forms of art: dance, opera, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, film…every form Mr. Reinhardt could find. Often we would study the same subject matter across media and across classes as a form of integrated studies. For instance, I distinctly remember Romeo and Juliet. While reading the Shakespeare play in English class, we studied the ballet with music by Prokfiev, we watched West Side Story by Bernstein and Sondheim, and we listened to Belioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
Since I grew up an hour north of Chicago, we also took field trips to some of the greatest cultural institutions in support of our work in the classroom. We saw performances by the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Joffrey Ballet. We visited the Art Institute and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. It was through these experiences that I learned how to be a patron of the arts. A seed was planted in me through those classes and field trips that has taken root and is an integral part of who I am.
Some of you may be saying to yourself, I bet he attended a private school that had more resources, or perhaps he attended the public schools in one of the affluent suburbs of Chicago…I did not. I attended a public school in one of the least affluent suburbs of Chicago. A true working class, blue collar town where my high school demographics were much like here in Indianapolis; where every ethnicity was a minority as there was no one ethnic group that exceeded 40% of the student population.
How were these opportunities funded? Enter the second teacher in my story. Her name is Mrs. Reinhardt. Yes, in case you were wondering, she and Mr. Reinhardt were married to each other. It was Mrs. Reinhardt who applied and received a $9,350 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1982 to fund the textbooks and the field trips for our humanities classes.
Mr. and Mrs. Reinhardt were an amazing couple who were devoted to their students and to the arts. Every year they traveled to New York City for winter break and spent several evenings at the Café Carlyle where Bobby Short would perform from the Great American Songbook. They had Saturday night tickets to the Chicago Symphony, and on a couple of teachers’ salaries, it was Mr. an Mrs. Reinhardt who filled their apartment with art, including an original Campbell’s Soup Can by Andy Warhol.
It was this exposure to and teaching of how to appreciate the arts that has inspired me to give back to Indianapolis through the Arts Council of Indianapolis and Any Given Child Indy. Up until this initiative, I had already done the easy and fun part of being a patron. I subscribe to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and The Cabaret, I have bought art from local artists and attend other shows at the Palladium, the Murat, and Clowes Hall at Butler, but I felt I needed to give more of myself and find ways to support the arts across the city. I was fortunate to be asked to join the board of the Arts Council of Indianapolis where I can give of my time and talents.
But, I know how a student can have his or her life changed when he or she experiences the arts while in school. I know how that experience can set a student on a trajectory not previously imagined.
I know how someone can experience the world without leaving his or her city, so I am proud to serve on the Steering Committee for Any Given Child Indy, where I help chair the Budget & Resources Committee. Our charge on this committee is to help determine how we provide the funding and resources needed to realize the vision of this incredibly important initiative for Indianapolis. In some way I hope that I can play the part of Mrs. Reinhardt in this story by helping to find the funding and resources for a thousand Mr. Reinhardts across the Indianapolis Public Schools system. Won’t you please join us in changing our students’ lives through the arts?
About the Author
Greg Wallis is the CFO for Harrison College and he proudly serves as a Board member for the Arts Council of Indianapolis and as a co-chair of the Budget & Resources Committee for Any Given Child Indy.
Voices for Any Given Child Indy is an initiative that gives leaders in the Indianapolis community the opportunity to focus on issues in arts education and in the community, as well as their personal investment in the success of Any Given Child Indy. Be on the look out for new posts from community leaders on anygivenchildindy.org.