More

By Sabrina Bovay, member of Board of Directors and previous Board Chair

As 2018 wraps up, I wanted to share a reflection on my time with Mirror Image Arts. I’ve been a part of this non-profit organization for four years. I started as a volunteer to help a friend. In short time, I realized how amazing an organization it is, and I decided I wanted to be even more a part of its mission and success. Three years ago I became a member of the board, and served a term as board chair.

First, I want to comment on our fearless leader, Andrea. She is not actually fearless; rather she is courageous, one who steps out in the face of fear to serve those who are unable to advocate for themselves. It is this mix of courage and vulnerability which makes her an amazing leader, and gives our organization the culture and space to thrive in the communities we engage. By being curious and asking questions that dig deeper…by truly listening to others and being empathetic, Andrea has led by example. She has been at the helm of expanding Mirror Image Arts in ways that we could only have imagined four years ago. The staff that supports her vision for our organization is just as amazing — they believe in our mission and more importantly model it to the young people we serve.

At our board retreat this past weekend, our team talked about some HEAVY topics. Topics like “What does diversity mean to us as an organization, and to the organizations that can potentially fund us?” Through this conversation we explored our own differences. We discovered that in honoring and communicating our differences we become more deeply connected. We talked about the school-to-prison pipeline — the way we see it, how it makes us feel, how our work is impacted by it. We, the Board of Directors, were in a space where we felt safe to share our ideas freely, knowing they would be met with respect and open minds and hearts. Attempting to change the world based on a platform of these topics is a daunting challenge. For now, we are focusing our efforts and impact on the Denver area, but eventually we seek to impact all of Colorado. We intend to have dialogue with our government, our school districts, our partners and our corporations. We will take on the challenge of being role models to our youth so they can see there are people standing up with them and for them.

Our organization is more than just an “anti-bullying program”. Rather, we are a courageous organization with the intention and ability to of impact the social-emotional well being of all young people. To do this we know we must seek ways to engage in our world, a political world, a changing world, and a beautiful world.

I hope you continue to join me in supporting the efforts and endeavors of Mirror Image Arts in 2019 and beyond.

More

By Erin Jorgenson, Mirror Image Arts Founder

A few months ago Mirror Image Art’s fearless leader Andrea Rabold called me to tell me that MIA is 10 years old this year. The first thing I said when she told me that was “you and I have been friends for 10 years?!” After we hung up I starting thinking how strange it was that that was my first thought. I have been around the non profit world for as long as I can remember, an organization making it to the ten year mark is a big deal. An ARTS organization making it to the
ten year mark is a VERY BIG DEAL. I am prouder than I ever thought possible. Still. That wasn’t my first thought. Huh.

In retrospect, my friendship with Andrea was exactly the right response and not strange at all. In fact, in my mind, it is the whole point. Mirror Image Arts is about relationships. About reaching into someone’s life and changing it forever. Andrea did that for me, and I’m sure if you ask her, she would say I did the same. That is the magic of Mirror Image Arts. Every single day, their work reaches into the lives of kids and changes them. Forever.

Teaching kids that their voices matter enables them to use that voice to make a change, a choice that creates empowerment. Empowerment is contagious and once you feel it’s power, you want to spread it around. This is how the world changes, becomes more equal, kinder and stronger. This is progress, plain and simple. I am amazed at this organization and the people involved in it, all of you. The staff, the volunteers, the kids, the donors. Because of your dedication, your hearts and souls, there are 10 candles on MIA’s birthday cake. And that fills me with so much awe and gratitude that it is difficult to speak. Which, if you know me, is saying something. Give. Give to this organization. Know that your money is being used to reach into the life of someone who needs you, who needs to be seen, to be heard, to feel love. It’s even better than a new pair of shoes, which again, if you know me, is saying something. And its contagious too.

Much love,
Erin Jorgenson
Founder and forever champion

By Maya Osterman VanGrack

We are so proud that “Restorative Theatre” is now a part of Mirror Image Arts’ program offerings. The following story provides a sneak peak into the five years it has taken to build this program and the impact it has on the social-emotional well being of both staff and participants.

From My Journal, June 10th, 2014:

The sweat dripping down my arms is not an indication of the sweltering heat outside, it is the recurring bodily indication that I have made it here, another week. Although it has now been months the journey always feels foreign, unknown, precarious. I pass the Polk Correctional Institution, a reminder of what is next.  Following the windy path shaded by trees that whisper tales of the past as the breeze goes by, I am led to the stop sign at the end of the road. I take a right and then an immediate left, I travel up the path, “C.A. Dillon Youth Development Center” is proudly displayed at the entrance in a deserted kind of way. I pull into the same spot every week, put the car in park and take a deep breath. I leave everything in my car except my keys and my materials for the day.  I follow the electric gate up to the front door. Opening the phone box and dialing zero I read the same three signs everytime; the laundry list of articles not allowed inside the facility. I go through the familiar pattern of saying my name, asking for the Chaplain and repeating multiple times that I am here as a volunteer to teach Theatre. Each week I must repeat myself “Theatre…yes Theatre as in acting”. I wait ten minutes taking in the budding flowers that make the landscape quite serene from the outside.

The students constantly ask me to perform something. I push it off as long as I can. I do this because mainly the only work I had been doing as an actor is performing a one-woman show I wrote about sex trafficking in America…I’m not sure how that will go over with these young men). But they keep asking and so I give them a choice. I let them know the subject matter of my work and they all agree they wanted to see one of the monologues from the show. So, with that the group lines up a row of chairs facing me and I take center stage.  I finish and the young men excitedly call out different theatrical techniques they noticed and ask questions about the difference between theatre and film. The process of theatre, the power of live theatre, the ability to transform yourself into someone so different from yourself and the power to transport an audience to a totally different place and time. They then ask to see more from the play and I end up explaining a decent amount about the play and perform little bits of the other monologues. “So, what are you sitting with?” I ask.  Deep heartfelt questions about sex trafficking are asked by every young person. “Where does it happen the most? Why does it happen there a lot? How did you hear these stories? Are they really all true? Why don’t the girls just run away?” I ask the group back, “Why do you think they don’t run away?” they respond, “Maybe because it’s all they know, or they don’t have anywhere to go. Why don’t they go to the cops?”. Again, I ask back, “Why do you think they don’t go to the cops?”. “Because they probably don’t trust the cops or have been too brainwashed by their pimp that they are too scared”.

The reflection continues for a while until one young person, Reinz says he wants to try and perform a monologue. I choose a Theatre for the Oppressed activity called “Hot Seating” which uses a structure that allows for performance without memorization being required. Reinz jumps up and takes a seat, I ask him for the setting of this “monologue”. He responds prison, and steps into role as a character.  And with that the questions started. Are you a convict? Yes. What did you do? I trafficked girls. The boys asked good questions taking a lot from my play and the conversation we just had.

Then, in character, Reinz shared a story about “a friend who told him that he started pimping because he had no father figure.  He and his little brother rarely had clean clothes to wear or food to eat. His mom was a drug addict and as a young kid his friend would see all sorts of men come in and out of his house using his mom so she could get her next fix. He hated her for that and he thought that if she didn’t care about her body and was okay using it to get things that he could to.  So he would stand in front of the bedroom not letting these men in to see his mom until they paid him first. And just like that he started pimping out his mom, when he realized how easy it was he started pimping out other women. The loss of respect for his mom translated to all women.” Reinz’s story began as a character talking about a friend, but soon he started using the pronouns, me and I. It was the first time he had shared that part of his story.

It was from that moment on I knew this was this work I wanted to do.

I started a journal documenting my weekly class teaching theatre to incarcerated youth while living in North Carolina. I spent eight months at a residential facility there trying out different theatre activities and techniques until I built a program, “Restorative Theatre”. This program focuses on exploring choice, confidence, resilience, problem solving, collaboration, value, worthiness, community and trust through Theatre of the Oppressed, storytelling and devising original theatre. When I moved to Colorado, I was determined to continue this work. I have slowly and quietly continued this program in Golden, Colorado for the last four years on my own, in my spare time. There are so many stories that need to be told from voices that are desperate to be heard. I have now been at Lookout Mountain Youth Services in Golden, CO for four years. I have learned more about myself, theatre, humanity, compassion and empathy from the boys at Lookout than any other space I work in. It doesn’t matter how hard my week has been Wednesday nights from 6:00pm-8:30pm restore and rejuvenate me. I have the privilege of spending 12 weeks with a group of 8 to 10 young men devising an original piece of theatre based on a topic/theme they are interested in exploring. The last group wanted to explore the idea of being an outsider, their play The Misfits pushed us week after week to dig deep and share stories around pain, loneliness, judgement, self-preservation, and choice.

From My Journal, August 20 2018:

“I come from a place I wish I wasn’t born”

The opening line of the play is delivered by a participant named Enrique. I have known him for four years, he has been in every group I have run at Lookout. He has spent almost his entire teen years locked up.

Enrique and other Restorative Theatre participants rehearse for The Misfits

“I am the calm before the storm.”

I have watched him grow and change both physically and emotionally. He has recently been released and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified about his future. Terrified of his future because society has failed him. Enrique is smart, passionate, funny, creative, and kind. But those qualities can’t help him get a job because he cannot get an ID, and he has no references or past work experience.  He lives far away from anything he knows, no family close by. He tries to stay positive but I can tell it is getting to him.

“I look at myself and the journey I have been on.”

I am lucky enough to be a part of his state assigned transition team so I can stay in touch with him. I am asked if there is more theatre work for him to do now that he is out…currently there is not. So Enrique and I meet once a month and we are dreaming, planning of a reentry program for him and his fellow actors. At some point they all get out. All 144 young men who currently reside at Lookout Mountain will one day be released. And although these young men may seem complexly different than you or me at the end of the day we are all simply human just wanting to be heard and seen.

                           

Enrique and me planning the reentry program            “This is how I feel when I can’t go to theatre group…” – Enrique

As of August of 2018, “Restorative Theatre” became an official program of Mirror Image Arts.  I cannot express my gratitude and excitement of this merger. “Restorative Theatre” will finally get the time and support it needs to flourish into the dream I have envisioned for so long.

The other day Maya, our Program Manager, shared an experience she had with high schoolers during a program. She was facilitating an activity with them called “The Great Game of Power”. We use this activity to explore a particular group’s dynamics, perceptions, and experiences around power.

Her story had quite an impact on me. I share it with you. Her words…

 


Jessie placed three chairs laying on their backs in a triangle and took the fourth chair and stacked it on top. He finished by placing a water bottle on top of the fourth chair. As Jessie completed his image of power, I said to the group, “Tell a story of the chairs. And relate it to something in your own lives.”

A youth participant offered, “The person on top has all the water to themselves and won’t give any to other people”.

That interpretation of the image started the group talking about Africa and the lack of access to water there. We ended up talking about Cape Town where “rich white people had the water and no one else did”.

Kaddi, a participant who identifies as a person of color, was quick to respond back. “Why’s it always gotta be black and white? Why can’t people just be people. Ya, there are some white people I don’t like, but you’re white and I like you.”

The group shifted and a new form took place; the youth began to voice their frustrations with all the anger and hate in our nation these days. They freely shared the opinions about the polarization they see around them. Us vs Them. You vs Me. The dialogue continued on until one youth finally said, “What’s the point? We can’t change anything anyway.”

Silence.

It was such a good question…one that begged me to want to answer…for them…for myself. After a long pause, I admitted, “I don’t have all the answers. This class is supposed to make you think…to ask hard questions. You did.”

They stared back at me disappointed…like they needed me to have the solution that would solve the greatest question.

I finally said, “I definitely don’t have all the answers, but what we will be doing together is learning through theatre how to connect, how to share space for each other’s stories, and how to simply be human together.”


As I shared earlier, this story held deep impact for me. We are all human. We are all fighting to be heard. To feel valued. To know our purpose. So what isn’t working? In effort to be understood, we struggle with our own ability to understand. Others are using those misunderstandings to their advantage. To divide us.

For our youth that day, Maya’s last response finally seemed enough. Enough to drive them to action. To determine the truth about our current state for themselves. To want to do something about it. Now, it’s your turn. A few ways you can make a difference today:

  • Listen – Like when you ask someone how they’re doing…mean it.
  • Activate – Your bodies, your voices, your purpose. Don’t forget #1.
  • Invest – In Mirror Image Arts – theatre for connection and social-emotional wellbeing.

You can help us achieve our goal to raise $7,000 by December 31st. Here’s specifically how you can impact #3:

  • $60 Covers trauma informed care training for 3 actors to serve young people affected by trauma.
  • $100 Equips Program staff with the supplies to bring the joy of theatre and humanity to the classroom for one year.
  • $300 Supports social-emotional skill building for one young person growing up in a juvenile detention center.
  • $850 Funds an 11 wk program for 5th graders that promotes self-awareness, empathy, and embracing differences.

 

Andrea Rabold

Executive Director

 

David Molnar has been a part of the Mirror Image Arts team for the past 4 years. As our pro-bono evaluation specialist he has deepened our work by helping us track and prove that youth who participate in our program have cognitive empathy growth. He also continuously pushes us to think in new and innovative ways. When our Executive Director, Andrea Rabold first met David he was very skeptical of theatre especially as an art form that could elicit real change in an individual. This past semester David joined us out in the field to sit in on a session from our Finding Your Voice program and the follow up program, Shaping Your Voice. Below are his thoughts on these experiences.

One of the first goals and greatest achievements of Mirror Image Arts is creating a safe space. Safe space is a precondition for achieving the other goals. Creating a safe space is a collaborative effort between the teaching artists and the students. While schools, homes and other institutions prioritize physical safety, the emphasis here is on emotional and social safety. A safe environment is something that some students have rarely felt.


Participation is one element of a safe space. The teaching artists use theater techniques to help manage a potentially rowdy bunch of very young children. Participation assures the children become co-creators of a safe space rather than mere observers. Experiencing their power to create a safe space is an element in their transformation from passive bystanders into active upstanders. So begins their rehearsal for reality! A powerful element of participation is the emphasis put on students making a choice. We are a nation of victims where adults say, “I have to” or “I can’t” rather than taking responsibility for their choices. Teaching artists call on students to “make another choice.” Here there can be poor choices, but not bad kids. Even if this were Mirror Image Arts’ only achievement, it would be transformational in the lives of these children.

Respect is a second element of a safe space. Students show respect verbally, but also with body language and facial expression—another contribution of theater techniques. These children are learning to use their bodies to communicate. Actually, they are learning through their bodies—an opportunity I never had despite my privileged education. Through these visible, physical signs of respect, students can build trust in this environment. Without this high level of trust, how could they have the courage to experiment with “making another choice” or challenging their bullying stereotypes?

Perhaps the most important element of a safe space is that promises are kept. Ground rules are clearly stated and students are called to actively affirm these agreements. Here there is no such thing as silent consent. These agreements are consistently enforced as promised, but enforcement doesn’t feel punitive. When necessary, the teaching artists engage a child as distressed—not as a “bad kid.” The teaching artists are modeling empathy. Together with trust being established, promise-keeping creates a predictable environment. Safety is a treasure when you live in the vortex of a cyclone at home and in school!

Having established the precondition of a safe space, the teaching artists can focus on achieving other program goals. Students go on to learn what distinguishes bullying from a mean moment or just joking. By the conclusion of this program, students have learned how to identify a physically, emotionally and socially safe environment. By “rehearsing for life” students develop communication skills and conflict resolution skills.

By Mitch Marquez, miARTS Teaching Artist

 

I’m very lucky to have stumbled upon Mirror Image Arts. I wasn’t looking for anything even in this realm of work. I wasn’t really looking for work in theater, I definitely wasn’t looking for anything having to do with education or working with people in the community. I was kind of just slowly wandering through the Denver film scene. A friend from an acting class mentioned this opportunity and honestly I didn’t understand much about it beyond that it was a chance to act. The more I learned, the more interested I was and I couldn’t find any reason not to try it out. I turned out to be a strong believer in what the program was doing. It’s so important to address community issues and work to build social skills at a young age. The arts have the ability to do that in a very effective way.

I had very little experience with kids. I don’t think I had ever performed for a child before starting with Mirror Image Arts. I really didn’t know how perceptive kids could be. The aspects of humanity that translate between adults and children are staggering. Life is life. It’s cool to me that we can live so differently day to day but when it comes to dealing with people, we are the same. The kids are able to engage with these characters and empathize with them in such an impressive way; they always want to help. I love during our program when I am in character as TJ or Alex and I have the chance answer the kids questions or hear their advice. It’s always really satisfying to have a kid hone in on an issue you’re having and work it out with you.

The work is hard. It’s not the type of thing I feel I can show up and just go through the motions, kids see through the facade and will easily check out. I feel like I’m constantly going outside of my comfort zone. Interacting with people doesn’t come easily for me and having to perform at the same time is a serious challenge for me. Life can be so isolating and the fact that I have so much in common with kids from all walks of life is a nice way to step off the island back to humanity. My biggest gain from my experience so far is how special the feeling of community is. It’s something I was aware I was missing but didn’t realize how important it was.

I feel lucky for this experience, it truly inspires me. I needed to do something that was based on something other than myself. Ironically it’s helped me in a lot of ways. It provides me a regular chance to practice my craft while teaching me things that have helped ground me. I’m very thankful for that.

More

It’s the end of the year again – another 365 days around the sun – and I can’t help but celebrate! Why? Because every month this past year seemed to bring amazing new developments for Mirror Image Arts.

My main joy this past year has been the culture that Mirror Image Arts is cultivating not only as an organization but in the community. It makes my heart happy to be part of an organization that practices our values and mission.

Here is my short list of other things that made me proud to be a part of Mirror Image Arts:

1.) Adding Maya to the staff this year allowed us to have a Lead Facilitator for all the programs. A consistent Lead Facilitator led to better quality in our programming. However, the fact that we had MAYA join the team has led to so many more amazing things. Maya has supported our organization in countless ways, always giving, always coming up with new ideas, always, always, always on so many things. Thanks Maya for being the amazing team member that you are!

2.) The Speak Up, Speak Out project reached out to the community through the La Alma Rec Center. There were challenges from the beginning…the primary one being that we have never tackled anything like this before: developing a deep cross sector partnership with Denver Parks & Rec in order to have even greater impact. The culminating production was an amazing piece of community engaged theatre, and the relationships that were created through this project are what makes Mirror Image Arts the unique organization it is.

3.) The people that are part of the organization are AMAZING. This is what happens when everyone believes in the organization. Our Board, Staff, Volunteers, Artists, and Donors have supported the organization by going above and beyond enabling the tremendous growth we have experienced.

4.) Anderson Rabold. Granted, I had nothing to do with his creation or entry into the world – I am so excited that he has joined the Mirror Image Arts family (through Andrea and Jamey).

I feel like my list of things could go on and on, so join me at our next Brews & News, mention this post, and I’ll buy you a beer and tell you everything else. I’m not sure which one of us wins in that situation, but you’ll at least get a drink out of it!

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to ensure your impact this year…no worries, there is still time. We are raising $6000 by December 31st in order to impact 600 young people. We are over halfway there. Join us. Build Empathy. You won’t regret it. TO DONATEhttps://buildempathy.causevox.com/

All my best and Happy New Year!

Sabrina Bovay

Board Chair

More

By: Sabrina Bovay, Board Chair

2016 has been a year of change for me as I continued to volunteer for Mirror Image Arts. I joined the Board of Directors in late 2015 and just as I was getting accustomed to the group, I decided to take a sabbatical with my husband to go travel the world. I kept in touch with Meghann and Andrea on what was happening. And there was A LOT happening:

Personnel Changes – We hired a Program and Partnerships Director! Our second employee was approved; and we were super excited to welcome Meghann Henry to the new position. While there was a learning curve in taking on another employee and defining roles, so much of the groundwork had been done in advance by our Executive Director, Andrea, that the transition went smoothly.

 

Board Members, New and Old – No, I’m not referencing ages! Our board went through some shifts this year as well, as we welcomed new faces and said goodbye to members who played integral roles in getting MIA to where it is today. Jamey Rabold and Marc Stith were part of MIA since our reorganization in 2013, adding insight, expertise, and passion to our board. We can’t thank them enough for their contributions! The new faces that came on included Joe Hickman and Grace Spivak. They jumped right into the work, helping us identify more effective online relationship manager and accounting systems, working diligently on networking and evangelizing, and setting up a Finance Committee and internal infrastructure.

Programs, Programs, Programs – It has been quite a year for our programming department. Your Voice Matters, our bullying prevention programming continues to see results in the multiple schools it serves. I got to fully appreciate what our program does for young people by experiencing two different sessions and seeing the changes that occurred with the kids in each. I also got to walk like a duck and play really silly games during the program, which I enjoyed since I don’t get to do that very often!

I also participated in a workshop with Center For Performance and Civic Practice (CPCP). CPCP and MIA partnered to build our Speak Up, Speak Out! project in which we will work with the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Denver. Going to the workshop, was eye opening for me in many ways: 1) seeing the problems facing the neighborhood ‘in real life’ – like gangs, gentrification, and safety issues; 2) learning more about MIA’s Teaching Artists and their aspirations; and 3) really understanding what drives me to be a part of this organization and what I can learn from the work we are doing. I encourage all of you to reach out to me or anyone else involved in the organization to find out more about Speak Up, Speak Out!.

The business of running a non-profit business – It’s a lot of work! I’m not entirely sure how Andrea pulls it off, but she does it with grace, passion and efficiency! Being part of the leadership team has helped me learn the inner workings of what it takes to keep the lights on. And this year, we were excited to rent shared office space from Joining Vision and Action (JVA), so we actually accounted for a physical location to keep lights on for! Having a working environment at JVA has allowed us to connect with other non-profits as well as have a home base of operations for our employees and Teaching Artists. A big thanks to JVA for supporting us and our work!

I’m excited to see what 2017 brings to our organization! Our leadership team has big goals for the upcoming year, including the addition of a few more incredibly talented people to our board, another successful I Got Your Back! gala, extending our bullying prevention program, and the joy of seeing the outcomes from Speak Up Speak Out!.

As we go into the new year, I hope you get to enjoy the holidays with loved ones and friends!

Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. – Goran Persson

More

By: Ally Fleckenstein, Teaching Artist

Andrea, Meghann and I met before my 3 month travel abroad. We discussed sharing anything that served as inspiration to me during my incredibly journey. They also challenged me to discover what I believe my aesthetic is as an artist. I loved their challenge because I have never thought about defining my creative aesthetic before.

After spending time in so many beautiful countries including Thailand and the Philippines, I’ve been inspired in so many ways…it didn’t take long for me to discover what my aesthetic is:

– When elements of nature are coexisting with unnatural elements organically and freely, it creates something very stimulating for me. For example: a vine growing on a building. But deeper than this, but that concept.

– I also find it pleasing when the colors are contrasting. They don’t have to be, but it takes my stimulation and joy even further.

I connect this aesthetic with my work and with my way of living…the constant need I have for our society and my personal relationships to coexist even if we aren’t naturally connected. Sometimes it takes a little bit of work and contrast to pull different people together but ultimately their relationship and connection will naturally bond even if it is contrasting. In fact, I find it more pleasurable to make the contrast and differences work rather than assuming cultures or individuals need to connect because they may appear the same. Like the vine growing on a building, the two can become necessities to each other. They have become dependent on one another. Was the building built to sustain living plant life? Was the vine put here to find a building to grow on? But they’ve allowed this to happen, and they’ve created unity within each other allowing them both to freely and successfully exist and sustain each other.

If we allow one another to be open minded to the beauty of coexisting we will allow empathy and therefore allow a more beautiful and sustainable lifestyle.

Much love my beautiful souls. See you soon! I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels AND also can’t wait to get back to my work with MIA!

15267518_10207798162728025_1451103923342958099_n

Save

Save

Save