By Jay Connolly

The summer of 2019 is now one for the books. Returning to City Spotlights for the second summer has been an exciting and challenging few weeks thus far. This year, I have definitely found my footing. Being with the City Spotlights family again has brought me back to a feeling I could only describe as grateful. Last year, I was welcomed by the staff and teen leaders with open arms. I was greeted the same way this year. After a few welcome backs to the returners and introductions to the new teen leaders, we got right down to work and began creating. It has been a truly amazing experience to be in the same room with these young artists as they transform their ideas into art. Seeing some of the returning teens, who may have taken a backseat in the process last year, step up and use their voice to advocate for what they believe in, is a heartwarming feeling. On the flip side, watching new teen leaders dive head first in this fast paced creative process with enthusiasm and passion has become one of the reasons I jump out of bed every morning.

The challenging part of City Spotlights 2019 has been time. There never seems to be enough of it! Sadly, we lost time to the beginning of the program and this meant the teens only had a total of 5 hours to create and rehearse their presentation for the State House. This year the theme is #MediaisPower. Media is something that is deeply embedded in our teens’ culture. While using various forms of art we were able to heighten the effect that the media has on the everyday person. We also unveiled how the arts can be a community building opportunity and a place to release one’s stress from the day. #MediaisPower is a topic that the teen leaders grasped and powerfully articulated through their original song titled "Grow." This song touched upon the daily influences we receive from media regularly and how they affect us. After their presentation, Representative Paul McMurtry expressed that the song moved him to tears. Although time was a constant battle, the teen leaders stepped up to the challenge and delivered their message with power and grace.

Our presentation at the State House was to request 18 million dollars to be granted to the arts budget in Massachusetts, as well as continuing to ensure that grants and services will continue for future generations. This bill was then sent to Governor Baker’s desk and was approved for the next fiscal year. This year has been an exciting and challenging adventure. These teen leaders advocated for their art and mine. Without the arts, I wouldn’t be who or where I am today. Being a part of advocating for the increased budget is the least I can do for the arts, since they have done so much for me.