The Star-News

Reason to celebrate

Sat, Oct 19 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno

The arts are giving kids and young adults in the South Bay new found hope.

ARTS/A Reason to Survive, a 12-year-old non-profit organization, is set to unveil its 200,000- square-foot National City facility this weekend.

The organization created by founder and CEO Matt D’Arrigo is designed to use the arts as a vehicle to help children and young adults overcome adversity such as hopelessness, domestic violence, bullying, and physical and mental challenges.

D’Arrigo, 41, initially came up with the idea to start the non-profit about 20 years ago,  when his mother and sister were both diagnosed with cancer four months apart.

He said the arts helped him cope through the hard times.

“I just used to go to my bedroom and paint and listen to music every day, and it just really helped me get through that time,” D’Arrigo said. “And so I figured if it helped me, it would help other kids who are facing their own challenges, so I wanted to create a place where they could come and escape what they are going through.”

D’Arrigo said the arts was not only used as therapy, but a means of starting a career.

He said he hopes he can be an example to the kids in the facility that they can make something out of themselves through the arts.

The National City-based organization first started out of D’Arrigo’s  home, then moved to a 7,000-square-foot building

in Liberty Station before finding its home in the heart of National City at 200 East 12th St.

The arts facility offers a selection of visual arts, media arts, dance, theater and music. An art gallery and fashion design studio are also housed in the facility.

More than 200 people between the ages of 5 and 23 come to the center per week, D’Arrigo said.

Arts/A Reason to Survive performs outreach at local hospitals, shelters and group homes for those who do not have a way to get to the center.

D’Arrigo said with National City being the poorest city in the county, there was a need for such an organization.
National City City Manager Leslie Deese said the center is the right fit for the community.

“We heard and saw all the good things they were doing, so we thought it was a perfect match for the city,” she said.
D’Arrigo said the organization puts the well being of the kids first and the arts second.

“We’re not really an arts organization, we are a social services organization,” he said.

The center unveiling is Saturday, Oct. 19, from 5:30 to 8 p.m; an open house is Sunday, Oct. 20, from 1 to 4 p.m.

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