Close to a decade ago, when Marcia and John Goldman decided they wanted to use their family foundation to help the youth of East Palo Alto, they came up with a simple, yet innovative strategy: asking the youth of East Palo Alto what they needed.
“Bottom line is, we don’t know what they want, we didn’t know what they wanted,” John Goldman said. “And look what came out of it.”
EPACENTER (pronounced “epicenter”) is what came out of it – a 25,000-square-foot center for arts education that recently opened its doors to youth in the city ages 3-25. Free programs are offered in visual arts, dance, music and a host of other disciplines.
Throughout the process of creating EPACENTER, the Goldmans looked to a team of local youth to guide them in every aspect of creating the space: the curriculum, the building design and even the name.
"I remember when they first asked us, 'Do you want to name it EPACENTER or some other name I forgot, and we immediately said EPACENTER,'” said Staci Edwards, a member of the youth group guiding the Goldmans who now works as a project intern at EPACENTER. “To see the color and to see the youthful look on the building, I knew that it was something that belonged here."
Nadine Rambeau is EPACENTER’s Executive Director. As someone who has spent her life working in the arts and education, Rambeau was drawn to the project when she learned how youth oriented it was.
“Actually creating something big that is going to change other people's lives,” said Rambeau. “That is the quintessential essence of creativity and what arts education can do, it just impressed me."
“The theme throughout this entire project is just pulling back and saying, 'What is it that you'd like to see,' allowing people to create the reality that makes the most sense for them and then doing what they say,” said Rambeau.