Art Saves Lives Summer Intensive Program, Photo by Edgardo Lynch
Art Saves Lives Summer Intensive Program, Photo by Edgardo Lynch

In September 2019 at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, 2021 was declared the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. A lot has happened since then, with the onset of the Covid19 pandemic causing global businesses to be negatively impacted. From Broadway to Nollywood, the creative and cultural industries came to a complete stand still. For millions of creatives around the world, this has meant being unemployed for almost two years and yet, creativity never stops; it is essential to mankind since cavemen drew on their walls. In this Jaro4me exclusive, Raoul Ramdine, the founder of Get Up Stand Up from the island of Guadeloupe interviews Nicole De Weever, the founder of Art Saves Lives Foundation about mobilizing global creatives to come to her home, the island of St. Maarten, to train, mentor and build capacity for their creative ecosystem in line with sustainable development.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnS4UId6ugA
Art Saves Lives Foundation Flash Mob SXM Beach

Nicole De Weever is the Cultural Ambassador of St. Maarten and the founder of Art Saves Lives Foundation, a cross-cultural exchange between youth in need and experienced practicing artists who seek to use their talents for positive change. She is a professional dancer and choreographer who received the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards 2010 for Best Female Dancer on Broadway. She has performed at The View, Stephen Colbert Report, 64th Annual Tony Awards, The BET Honor’s Awards, Obbie Awards, Broadway on Broadway, Broadway in Bryant Park, Afro Pop Hall of Fame Awards, AUDELCO Awards, Black Film Festival, Dance Africa, West Side Story World Tour, FELA! Off-Broadway, FELA! on Broadway and FELA! World Tour.

Raoul Ramdine is a Sports Manager at Three Eye Sports, with years of experience in both professional basketball and the international sporting world as a whole. He is the strategic advisor to the Ministry of Sports and Culture of Guadeloupe and founded Get Up Stand Up, a Not For Profit that has been bringing basketball and leadership training for youth in the Caribbean.

Poster of Nicole De Weever, Dancer, Choreographer, Founder of Art Saves Lives Foundation and Cultural Ambassador of St. Maarten
Poster of Nicole De Weever, Dancer, Choreographer, Founder of Art Saves Lives Foundation and Cultural Ambassador of St. Maarten, Artwork by Fay Helfer

R. R: Your dancing career took you from St. Maarten to performing across world stages from FELA! On Broadway to dancing with Beyonce and yet, you still came back home in 2013 to start Art Saves Lives Foundation to make an impact within the creative arts community. What drove you to this? What have been your findings in your efforts?

N.D W: The inspiration behind Art Saves Lives Foundation extended from my desire to create programming for young people who have a passion for the Arts together with those who have yet to discover their creative gift having a safe space where they can nurture their talents and receive guidance and training from experienced professionals in their various fields of interest, ranging from Visual to Performing Arts.

My professional pursuits made me journey from St. Maarten to the States, but even while performing in so many countries around the world, I always kept home close to my heart. I acknowledged the tremendous opportunities I had been given by embarking on a career in the creative arts, but was also mindful of the incredible support system I had from my family, dance instructors, friends and mentors back home. I was fortunate, but I knew not every child growing up in St. Maarten will be afforded the same. I had also built such a great network of global creatives that knew how much I love and how proud I am of St. Maarten that expressed their interest to visit the island. I decided to create a cultural exchange between youth in need and experienced practicing artists who seek to use their talents for positive change. It is a situation where everyone wins; the experts get to give back, the participants gain life skills and professional arts training to effectively deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life and the island gets an influx of tourism that boosts the local business community. This is my vision of using the arts as a tool for sustainable development.

Fela! On Broadway, Photo by Leo Stern

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