CBS News March 15, 2019, 11:12 AM Cleveland students find purpose and refuge in the arts
Cleveland, Ohio, has one of the highest child poverty rates of any large city in America. The Cleveland Foundation is investing $4 million so every child there has access to arts programs in their neighborhoods. It's creating an impact inside and outside the classroom, reports CBS News' Adriana Diaz.
Damian Goggans can strum his guitar with the pros. But the maestro-in-training has only played for two and a half years.
"When my teacher told me about the guitar club I definitely did not want to play," Goggans said.
Music had never occurred to him as an option before, but the Cleveland Foundation is trying to change that. Through its arts mastery program, 3,000 children from diverse neighborhoods now have access to master-class level arts training, and it's helping them grow in skill and self-esteem.
"I used to, like, hate who I was," Goggans said. "We kind of lost our house and things like that. And so that was kind of upsetting 'cause I had to try to hide that from people and then my mom was, like, going to jail and things like that."
Naturally, all of that took a toll on his self-esteem. But Goggans said the first day he picked up the guitar, he started to feel better about himself.
"It kind of opened up a door for me," he said. "After I played that first note. It was just, like, 'whoa,'" he said. "I play guitar and it's, like, it talks for me."
That therapy comes from the music itself and the man who teaches it. Outside of class, Erik Mann, who runs the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, spends time with Goggans and his family, even helping them get on their feet when they were homeless.
"Damian's one of the most talented students that, you know, I've ever seen. And has a real passion for the instrument," Goggans said. "One of the most important things I do is to, as best I can, provide an emotional support."
"I've seen myself the power that music has to transform lives," he added.
For 17-year-old Sylvia Settles, that transformation comes from dance. She went from training three days a week to six under professional dancer Terence Greene, whom she calls a father figure.
"Is there something about the teacher-student relationship when there is an art at the center of it that makes it that much closer?" Diaz asked.
"Most definitely. Because for us it's our choice of weapon," Greene said. "Without it, we can't live. When you come from the community like we have … I would not be here. I would be dead. Really dead."
Greene said art saved him, and now he's paying it forward. For Sylvia, dance provides purpose and refuge, helping her grieve after losing her brother to gun violence.
"It was good for me to be around people that I love, doing the stuff that I loved. It was — I'm sorry," she said as she started to cry.
Like her teacher, Sylvia doesn't know where she'd be without dance. "Probably in the street somewhere like not doing what I'm supposed to do, not caring about school."
Damian Goggans thinks the arts can help save lives.
"A lot more people could be alive because … people who look like me sometimes we have to find a way to be able to survive," Goggans said. "But then once you get, like, music or any type of artistic thing you can like … know who you are. Because music is gonna take me somewhere and I want to be able to see where … it's gonna take me."
It's a journey that harnesses harmony, no matter the destination.