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Art and Service

by Patrick Torres, Middle School and High School Program Director

As Martin Luther King Day approaches, so many of us think about service and how we can use our time, resources and/or talent to serve others. Those of us in the arts often have to make a case to other people about how the arts are a direct service to the community and an extraordinarily valuable investment of time. This year, one of our teaching artists, Jennie Gray, has made it very clear that the arts can serve to deeply impact a community. As part of her after school residency at Ojeda Middle School teaching visual arts, Jennie and her core group of student artists are having a tremendous impact on their community. One of the most innovative projects they have completed is a community Wish Tree. The tree is a place for students, teachers and staff to write their dreams for themselves, their school and their community.

The tree has created an almost sacred space in the middle of this middle school library, where anyone can stop by and find inspiration in the hopes of the wishes hanging from the branches of the tree and contribute their own voice to it. This project has served the students and the adults that work with them by giving them a forum to share their thoughts and spark a dialogue about ways to help their community get better. Teachers and students can come to the tree to be reminded that no matter how far apart we feel, we all have common wishes and dreams and that we all deserve for our voices to be heard.

I am inspired by the work of Jennie and her students. She reminds me that the primary way we can serve others in the arts is to give people a voice and to create a space where communities come together to uncover their wildest dreams.

About creativeactionaustin

We are based in Austin, Texas and reach more than 16,000 young people every year through our unique blend of theatre and education programs.Our programs expose young people to critical social problems and offer opportunities for them to creatively think about how they can be a part of solutions to these problems. Creative Action is a unique blend of art and education – for us, the two are intertwined. We believe that using the arts as a teaching method provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way to learn – it incorporates the whole mind and body.

One response »

  1. Thank you so much for the accolades, Patrick! I am so grateful to work for such an amazing organization as TAP and to help carry the arts to the community and use art as a method of social change. The response to the Wish Tree at Ojeda MS has been wonderful and I am inspired and humbled by all the students. It has reiterated to me how important it is to provide opportunities for students to have a voice in a world that still often thinks “children should be seen and not heard.”

    I can’t take credit for the concept, as I myself am greatly inspired by the work of Yoko Ono and her Wish Trees. She invites everyone from all over the world to participate and create their own Wish Trees.

    For more information please visit

    Looking forward to more community art projects at Ojeda MS (Del Valle ISD), Webb MS and Mendez MS (AISD), and Robertson ES (Round Rock ISD) this semester!

    Best wishes,
    Jennie Gray
    Teaching Artist
    Theatre Action Project


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