Tania Castroverde Moskalenko
Two years after my family arrived in America as political refugees from Cuba, a truckload of furniture was delivered to our newly purchased three-bedroom, one-bath ranch home. The first item off the truck was a brand new white spinet piano. After the truck was unloaded, my mother sat at the piano to play the music of Cuba’s greatest classical music composer, Ernesto Lecuona. As my mother played, she began to weep. This beloved music brought all of her emotions to the surface. At that moment, my love of the arts was born. I was eight years old.
Unfortunately, it would be years before I would have the opportunity to experience, participate, and benefit from the intrinsic value the arts provide. As political refugees, our family did not have the financial means to participate in the arts nor the knowledge of how to access them. For years, I relied on books checked out of the public school’s library to learn about music and dance, and I would go to sleep nightly listening to the beautiful sound of classical music on the radio. My favorite was the music of the great ballets and I would dream about dancing to Swan Lake or Nutcracker.
I pestered my parents long enough until I was eventually enrolled in classical ballet lessons. A luxury provided by parents who worked long hours and had no time for frivolity. I was the only one of the three siblings to enjoy such extravagance. That sacrifice was never lost on me, and it set the course for my entire life.
As I have journeyed through my career as a dancer, dance educator, arts advocate, and arts administrator, making the arts accessible to individuals from all walks of life has always been a guiding light. As a performing arts presenter, I have been able to create opportunities for both artists and communities—by creating accessible arts programs for underserved and diverse populations and by bringing artists from across the globe to the communities I’ve served. Yet, financial support to create, deliver, and sustain these programs largely remain a hurdle. Because of funding challenges, generations are growing up without the value of the arts. I envision performing arts organizations all across our country stepping in and providing opportunities to serve our communities, especially our youth, through the arts and to build bridges of cultural understanding. With appropriate funding we can dispel the myth that the arts are elitist. No eight-year-old should have to only dream about the arts.