2010 Local Heroes: Marilyn Field
Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010. Fill my hollow bones By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson Marilyn Field wells up with tears…
Fill my hollow bones
By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson
Marilyn Field wells up with tears really easily when she talks about DAREarts, the organization she founded to bring art to children, especially those in need.
As an elementary teacher and music specialist in Scarborough, Marilyn had witnessed the impact of the arts on children’s lives.
“The arts have an extra special power,” she says. “They take kids outside them-selves.” Unlike math or science, where answers may be absolute, with the arts, “nothing is ‘wrong.’ Once you allow them that voice and children find a passion, they begin to find out who they are. The arts are the only tool that allows that.”
Marilyn felt so committed to her belief that in the mid-1990s she left her teaching job, mortgaged her home in Toronto, and used the proceeds as seed money to launch DAREarts. Since then, the charitable foundation has brought arts pro-grams to more than 130,000 children.
DARE stands for Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Education. A core pro-gram, called All-The-Arts, involves more than eighty schools across Canada. Select students come together weekly for an out-of-school immersion in architecture, culinary arts, dance, drama, fashion, literature, music and visual arts, taught by local professional artists. Each of the students then has to go back to school and teach their classmates what they’ve learned.
In 2005, General Rick Hillier invited DAREarts to participate in Junior Ranger camps the Canadian Armed Forces were sponsoring to develop life skills among northern Aboriginal youth. Marilyn says, “You don’t say ‘no’ to General Hillier.”
That work led to an invitation from the elders of Webequie, an isolated northern fly-in community dealing with suicide, depression and substance abuse. Together with the elders, they developed a program blending traditional and modern arts that is intended as a template for First Nations communities everywhere.
Now in its fourth year, the Webequie pilot project has been deemed a resounding success, and a similar program is underway in the community of Marten Falls in Kenora.
Still other DAREarts programs include hip-hop dance, a jazz choir, a glee club, and a trust fund for music students.
Marilyn lives in Hockley Valley, and in this region, many students have participated in the DAREarts Children for Peace project. It is part of a global children’s movement called Centipede Children for Peace, involving a million children. Over a period of three weeks, 3,000 local students make holiday greeting cards. Illustrated with their original artwork, the cards are sold to raise money to help kids in need around the world, through NATO peace-keeping forces.
In an era of cutbacks to arts education, DAREarts annual budget of $650,000 is funded primarily through corporate sponsorships and donations. “I’m a good little ankle-biter,” Marilyn says of her success in raising money.
However, with waiting lists for all their programs, the organization has plans to increase the budget to a million dollars, and more. It has also attracted the support of an impressive list of big names, such as Ed Asner, Morgan Freeman and Eugene Levy. “They were little people at one time too,” Marilyn says, “and they know what it’s like to find themselves. They get it. So they’re happy to help others find who they are.”
From memory, Marilyn recites poetry written by a Webequie girl in the DAREarts program.
Her eyes mist over again when she gets to the line “Fill my hollow bones …”
The Children for Peace cards, created by local students, are for sale at Theatre Orangeville’s box office on Broadway (suggested donation, $5 each). They can also be purchased at the annual festive fundraiser to be held at Marilyn Field’s Hockley Valley home at 7 p.m., December 3, featuring seasonal music, dance, drama and food. Tickets are $75, available by calling 905- 729-0097. For more information, see DAREarts.com.