The Artists' Collective for Social Change was inspired by the success of a multidisciplinary theater dance project, "A Fiasco of Things", which was completed in March 2000 at a girls residential treatment facility, Devereux Deerhaven, in Chester, New Jersey. Although the facility folded shortly after the production, the results of this project proved beyond a doubt the importance of the arts as a teaching tool for this community and the need to foster a specific approach of instruction through team teaching. Case manager and arts director, Alexis Marnel, was convinced she needed to establish The Artists' Collective for Social Change and to use "A Fiasco of Things" as a model for all its workshops and teaching with at-risk and underserved populations.
"I have worked in social services for 15 years and have have witnessed how the artistic process expands the world of a traumatized person. It is difficult for a deprived or abused being to form lasting, positive relationships due to a lack of trust. Providing these populations with specific artistic programming helps them to develop reciprocal relationships, learn how to accept constructive criticism, work as a team, and have the satisfaction of completing a task from beginning to end. The artistic process translates itself into life skills such as maintaining employment or developing relationships, all necessary components for creating a healthy functioning existence."
The team teaching approach is a concept that is not widely used in the arts education process. We join together two or more professional, experienced artists of different disciplines or styles that will complement one another. This approach models cooperative behavior. The process and end-product evolve from the participants with the artists acting as guides to assist the students in creating an original work. The projects are conducted by artists who do not expect immediate results and who trust the artistic process as a vehicle to empower its participants.
In 2001 Executive Director of ACSC, Alexis Marnel, won $5000.00 from The Nescafe Big Break Award and received matching funds from The Lorca Venetos Music Fund, allowing support for the first official project.
This project was designed specifically for six girls ages 11-15 who have been abused, neglected, and now reside in group homes. Clients came from Children's Aid and Family Services adolescent group homes, and PATH, a home for children who are eligible for adoption but need a period of time to learn how to live with a family before they can be placed. All children under the auspices of The Division of Youth and Family Services were from the Hudson, Essex, Union, and Bergen County areas.
The multidisiciplinary program which took place over a course of six weeks was conducted by ACSC artists and held at the Center for Modern Dance Education in Hackensack, New Jersey.