Last Tuesday EYE SPY had the chance to sit down and talk to both Rosie Perez (Pineapple Express, Choreographer Extraordinaire) and Jan Patrick Schmitz (CEO Montblanc North America) about a great cause both are involved; Urban Arts Partnership. This non-profit began in the heart of Brooklyn, NY in hopes of giving opportunity to under privileged kids in the public school system. Urban Arts Partnership believe it's time to get an art-integrated curriculum into schools everywhere to better the youth of today.
"What separates a privileged child from an underprivileged child is opportunity. You give that underprivileged kid that opportunity, and they will rise to the occasion, I've seen it. I have proof positive of it" says Perez.Jan Patrick Schmitz (Montblanc CEO of North America) joined by Ramon Rodriguez, Rosie Perez, Tracie Thoms and Diane …
Rosie Perez is clearly well invested in the good of the youth. Hailing from Brooklyn Rosie is extremely involved in this non-profit as the Honorary Chair Director. She sees these kids as her own and seeks change in their lives.
Now you're probably wondering what Jan Patrick Schmitz, CEO of Montblanc North America has to do with this. Montblanc and Jan Patrick are more than just a financial partner to Urban Arts, they are also extremely passionate about the ideas that fuel the fire to this machine. Whether its participating in a master class, visiting schools, or hosting the 24 Hour Plays, Schmitz feels the need to be involved on all sides of this non-profit. After sitting down with this man we saw his excitement coming from the involvement he's had with the Urban Arts Partnership and 24 Hour Plays over the past 6 years.
"I did the Master Class myself last week in New York. I went into Newcomer High School in Queens, and I taught a group of high school kids...I taught a photography class there" says Schmitz.
Rosie Perez also notices Jan Patrick's effort in partnering with Urban Arts and recalls, "Patrick actually comes to the school. He is the oldest CEO of all our other sponsors and says "Okay I'm not just going to be a sponsor I want to participate, and we're like, WHAT?! You're the CEO of Montblanc. You want to go to an inner city public school and teach photography?"...It makes them feel special, it makes them feel elevated in a way we couldn't provide."
The 24 Hour Plays are a branch of Urban Arts Partnership that happens each year. The show is put on in; you guessed it, 24 hours. Students in this program get to work with A-list actors and production teams to put on an unforgettable show.
Past actors include Ashton Kutcher, Sara Silverman, Chris Rock, and many others. This year there's an all-star cast showcasing their talent such as Ginnifer Goodwin, Alexander Ludwig, Josh Dallas, Ramon Rodriguez, Krysten Ritter, Diane Neal, Ashley Greene, Brooklyn Decker, Jason Biggs, Lena Headey, and Wilmer Valderrama just to name a few.
"I'm biting my nails there is so much to do on that evening. I want to give my time to the kids to help them settle and rehearse", Rosie says. "This will be my first year as a spectator. I'm not going to be relaxed! Sometimes the pieces are so amazing I'm sure I'll get lost in it."
"As you see six plays, you have six very different experiences in one night", Jan Patrick agrees.
Although Urban Arts Partnership and The 24 Hour Plays were born in the heart of New York, the awareness has begun to spread. Right here in Los Angeles, there are 5 Schools in the LAUSD with Urban Arts in their curriculum.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint, states Schmitz. "My personal target is that this is not a one time little event in which we do, but really growing this, and bring arts education to more children in New York, in L.A., and who knows over the years, maybe we can grow even further."
Both seem excited about the idea of expansion. In a strong voice Perez states, "My ultimate goal is to reach as many kids as possible and provide them with art driven curriculum that we have, and more importantly, is to change how the education system is handled in the United States."
The 24 Hour Plays are also coming back to L.A. for a second year on June 16th, 2012, at The Broad Stage located in Santa Monica, CA. Students will showcase their talents to viewers from all over. All proceeds help benefit Urban Arts Partnership in hopes to grow and educate people all over the world. It is a life changing experience for these kids as well as the audience. You can purchase tickets at www.urbanarts.tickets.com.
As if working with well-known actors wasn't enough, Montblanc and Urban Arts also choose two students to sponsor.
"The winner of the competition gets money from Montblanc, so it's usually seniors who do it, so the level of competition is so high. One it's because of our program, they've been in our program for so long and they've developed their skills, and two they are very competitive because majority if them are on their way to college and they need extra money, and three its the prestige of Montblanc. To say I'VE WON THIS is huge" says Schmitz.
There's something to be said about those who give back to the community. There's more to be said about individuals who believe in what they are giving back. This non-profit is promising and true with a great group of people backing it. With new ideas on the rise Urban Arts Partnership may help aid a revolution for the school system.
Rosie continues to speak passionately and says "There is a definite need for a change in education here in the U.S. There are some aspects of our teaching methods that should carry on, but a majority of them are antiquated, and kids are plugged in, and they come to school and they are asked to unplug."
"You have to keep up with the times, and you have to keep up with technology. Mark my words it is going to happen...We're trying to close the achievement gap."
It's clear to see that we are headed in the right direction. Thank goodness we have people like Rosie Perez, Jan Patrick Schmitz, and Montblanc backing Urban Arts Partnership.
Eye Spy change, do you?
For more information go to www.urbanarts.org