There are about 6,000 nonprofits in Central Texas, and sometimes it feels like I’ve met them all. Each of them is inspiring in its own way.
But once in a while one sneaks up on me and kind of takes my breath away….
Darden Smith, 49, is an accomplished Austin-based singer/songwriter with lots of hits, about a dozen records and hundreds of live performances under his belt. He’s pretty much been a musician his whole life. He grew up on a farm outside of Brenham, signing in the church choir and taking guitar lessons by the third grade. But he attributes his success to teachers who encouraged him to express himself through poetry, songwriting and music.
Mid-way through his career, he was approached by the Austin Symphony Orchestra to compose a symphony. On his website, Smith says, “It changed my life. It showed me that I was a musician, not just a songwriter, and that I could do anything I wanted if I would only say ‘Yes.’ ”
As an artist, he was evolving in ways he never would have predicted, and it made him realize something (in another quote from his website): “I saw immediately how important it was to help others recognize their own creativity, too, especially at a young age.”
Around that time, Smith was teaching informal songwriting classes at his son’s elementary school. The students and the teachers loved it, more schools requested it, and from that Smith created the “Be An Artist” program.
Here’s how Be An Artist works (from his website):
Darden introduces inspiration as a key to the artistic process and shows students how they can recognize and nurture inspiration in their own everyday lives. Darden focuses students on the idea that everyone is an artist, and that all of us can learn to recognize the artistry in everything we do, from choosing the clothes we wear to school, to how we interact with fellow classmates, to how we decorate our walls at home. He then draws awareness to the three ingredients to making art: attention, intention and the love of doing something you enjoy. Guiding them through a simple visualization process, he helps students recognize what they love to do, emphasizing individual differences and the importance that each student follow his or her own path.
(See what I mean? This is one of those nonprofits that fits Austin perfectly. It’s an artist passing on to young Austinites what being an artist is all about, so that they can continue to grow their creativity in a community that supports artists.)
I urge you to consider attending the Feb. 27 fundraiser for Smith’s Be An Artist program at FINO. It’s hosted by DJ Stout and Lana McGilvray and it features performances by Smith and special guest Kat Edmonson, plus there’s a four-course meal by Chef Jason Donoho. Beautiful night for a beautiful cause.