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Article updated: 7/25/2013 9:48 AM

Naperville's Artful Impact strives to change lives through the arts

By Christie Willhite

Life may be a cabaret, old chum, but a little cabaret can add a lot to life.

Especially when it's a Cabaret for a Cause, brought together by Artful Impact.

The Naperville-based not-for-profit was founded on the theory that art can change lives -- both for the performers and the community. Organizers created Cabaret for a Cause to do just that.

In the big picture, each Cabaret for a Cause show is a fundraiser to benefit another local charitable organization. "Journey to Wisdom,"a women's cabaret performance on Sunday, Aug. 25, is being staged on behalf of the DuPage Senior Citizens Council's Meals on Wheels program, which delivers hot lunches to homebound seniors countywide.

But rather than hiring experienced performers for each cabaret, Artful Impact sees each show as an opportunity to introduce the arts into more people's lives. For eight weeks before the show, performers -- who may or may not have previous stage experience -- take a class led by professional writers, directors and choreographers. The goal is for the performers to develop confidence, stage craft and friendships while working together to help others.

The "Journey to Wisdom" cabaret will feature women ages 30 and older in a musical revue exploring themes of growing older. Rehearsals for "Love is Cabaret" for men and women to benefit Edward Heart Hospital will begin in January. Programs for seniors are in the works as well.

In addition to the cabarets, Artful Impact works with the School of the Performing Arts in Naperville to offer Spectrum programs for young people with special needs. Spectrum workshops offer those with special needs opportunities to sing, dance and try comedy improv. Meanwhile, in-school workshops help educators and students with special needs stage musicals.

Other Artful Impact workshops bring performance to classrooms or after-school programs, or encourage leadership, teamwork and collaboration in business settings.

Today, Artful Impact co-founder Deborah Newman tells us more about the organization, life and cabarets.

Q. What's the mission of Artful Impact?

A. We are dedicated to making individuals, businesses, organizations and communities stronger through the arts.

Q. How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?

A. We provide arts experiences that open eyes, inspire creativity, empower imagination, promote communication, build esteem.

Q. Whom do you serve?

A. Individuals: adults and children, special needs, seniors, at-risk, underserved populations.

Groups: community organizations, businesses, public and private schools -- all in the Western suburbs and the cities of Chicago and Aurora.

Q. When and why did Artful Impact start? How has it grown?

A. Artful Impact was founded through the vision of the teachers and directors of the School of Performing Arts in Naperville and some community leaders who had experienced the power of the arts to impact communities. The school has provided Spectrum arts programs for individuals with special needs for almost 10 years, has provided after-school arts opportunities for schools and cultural entities for several years, and began the Cabarets for a Cause community participation for charity program two years ago.

In the past year, we have evolved to an Illinois not-for-profit corporation dedicated to providing a wide range of arts experiences throughout the community.

Q. What kind of successes have you had?

A. Now in its 10th year, our Spectrum program for young people with special needs now serves some 40 individuals and in the last year has begun providing arts enrichment opportunities in area public schools in cooperation with in-school special education staff.

Q. What challenges does the organization currently face?

A. Having launched as a not-for-profit in February, we are working hard on name recognition as well as controlled growth so we ensure the delivery of top-quality programs by professional teaching artists. We also are working on finding funding to support programming, marketing and administration.

Q. What do you wish the community at large knew about the organization?

A. We want people to understand what we know for sure -- that arts change lives and make people stronger. We've experienced the transformative power of arts experience and our goal is to share that experience. You'll believe it when you see it!

Q. How can readers get involved?

A. Register for a program, take part in a fundraiser, engage or recommend us to a school, business or community group, fund a program. Visit artfulimpact.org. Watch us grow on Facebook.

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