Art Beat: Volunteer for the arts
Our community heroes are often the quietest among us, working behind the scenes to support the arts and the good works of others. The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo has honored local artists, arts organizations, and supporters since 1985 with the Community Arts Awards. This year’s recipient of the Theodore C. Cooper Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service is Sydney Bastos of Vicksburg. Her friends know her simply as Syd. Her volunteer work touches many area organizations. She built the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center from a small organization into a thriving non-profit. She also created a new coffeehouse concert series and “Arts in the ‘Burg,” - an arts camp for kids who can’t go to the ones in Kalamazoo, among other projects.
“It’s quite an honor,” Bastos says. “I definitely appreciate the encompassing part of this, because it is about the arts. I do volunteer service for other organizations and other things in our community, but this one has definitely been the lion’s share of the time I’ve spent for the past eight years in the arts world and in the arts arenas.”
The Cooper Award goes to a person, a group of people, or an organization that lives exemplifies a broad range of service to the arts community that is not related to a professional occupation.
Bastos cites mental health as a reason she feels called to volunteer in the arts.
“Mental health is obviously a really big deal in our communities,” she says. “I know that the arts can play a really big part in helping us with our mental health. I see that over and over again. I see that in my own family. I see that with some of my friends in our community. It is also a way to build bridges and to build community identity so that people feel that they belong and that they are welcome. The arts are one of the best ways to help us do that because there are so many different artists that we can encounter that might look different than us or think differently than we do. But it’s almost as if the arts are a safe place where we can articulate what’s in our hearts and in our minds.”
Bastos is the acting executive director and board president of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. She helped develop the organization from a Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority program into an independent nonprofit with a full-time director.
Among the other community arts programs Bastos has initiated or enhanced are a “Wednesday Winners” club for adults with disabilities, community art projects at the Harvest Festival and Christmas in the Village, and the Schoolcraft Community Library’s “Tournament of Writers.”
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