On a late September night, at a pop-up photography reception, two people asked Valois Joubert about her photos. “Are these yours?” “You should continue to take more!” The encouragement convinced Val to continue her dream of a career in photography and to help other artists experience a similar moment in their own lives. Now, five years later, as our Arts Coordinator, she links with community artists to share performance and teaching opportunities that allow them to connect with the public.
Life in Reading is a constant choice between creativity and despair. When despair has the upper hand, we lose hope and give in to negative narratives. But when creativity wins, we can channel its energy to create change. Barrio Alegria is a community organization that utilizes art to create transformational moments in individuals so they can change the world. We believe that change trickles up and that we, the people, must be empowered to voice our opinions and collectively dream a new world.
Barrio incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2017, but its values are as old as the time itself. In Barrio, we share. In Barrio, what happens to one of us, happens to all of us. And, in Barrio, everyone has something to contribute.
Our first program utilized theater, and dance to open up spaces for community members to get together, create, and build relationships. That is why we listen to residents’ needs when we create our programs. When neighborhood youth told us, they were tired of negative narratives, we created our OJOS photography project. And, after we learned that there are few if any, safe spaces for young adults to get together and build community, our Exploration in the Art Form program was born.
We have witnessed the transformational power of art and are doing our best to keep its fire alive. But theater, photography, painting, dance, music, voice, crafts, and poetry are not enough. In addition to our art programs, we offer a leadership development program, a timebank platform, and a micro-business support program.
Where others see deficiencies, Barrio sees opportunities. We know that there is still a lot of work to be done but we recognize the wealth and power of culture in our city, and we are engaging it to build a better future for everyone.