Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL

Never in the history of my life have we needed those words to resonate more in our world and in our community.

2022 will go down as one of the most rewarding, yet challenging years of my life! As Founding President of the Riverside Arts Academy, which arose from the imminent closure of the former Riverside School of the Arts because of the tireless work of a group of community leaders, I have witnessed our tremendous growth. The Riverside Arts Academy has risen to amazing stature in our city because of its diligence and commitment. Our mission is to change the trajectory of the lives of our under-resourced children. I can say unequivocally….WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THIS!

Yes, we have received many awards and proclamations, and while that brings our organization great joy and pride, I lie awake at night wondering where the next dollars are going to come from to keep our programs alive so we can continue to serve our children. How do we find musically talented staff, because we only believe in excellence and want the best? Will our community partners still be there to offer sound advice and counsel? I believe so. Will our city support and work with us and our vision to remodel the Cesar Chavez Community Center with the $25 million funds we secured as a nonprofit, so we can transform the center into a true Riverside Arts Academy that serves our children’s needs in the arts in our city? I believe so. We have almost completed our Visioning Project and would like to hear from you too. Board member Ellie Bennet has polled hundreds and hundreds of children in different school districts to learn what forms of art interest them. The next step is to make sure that when the building is designed we take input from the community and make sure the architects have their vision based upon OUR community’s needs and desires. Right?

We are rising to the next level, and while my Presidency ends this year, we are searching for an Executive Director to fill my role and lead our incredible executive committee and RAA into the future. TEN years ago we started with a budget of around $30,000. Today it is over $400,000. The new Executive Director should take us to the next level. It is scary and will be a challenge due to the fact that most of our funds come from private donations and from our city’s Arts and Culture Grant. This grant allocation has been reduced from $40,000 to $27,000 this year. We will keep you informed and have some excellent candidates. We pray the new President, Andy Melendrez, can continue this trajectory with our new ED’s guidance and can make this happen.

So as the holidays approach, the true meaning of Christmas speaks to me. I lay my faith in the Lord to carry this organization onward as we face the challenges in the coming years and the changes that will inevitably occur. I pray that all of you will continue to believe in us and give financially so we can survive, thrive, and rise to new levels in our city while serving our kids. As my husband, who donates over 500 hours a year, stated yesterday, “What the Riverside Arts Academy does is so much more than enhancing a child’s life. It’s much more than seeing a movie, taking a walk in nature, going to a great museum, or attending a wonderful performance. It is changing the life of a child and building community at the highest level.” It is our children, working together as a team, supporting one another, and engaging in an activity that creates raised brain-level connectivity and contributes to academic success. We see our parents and community coming together and building our community higher and higher long term!


Sending Christmas love to all.
Collette Lee
Founding President
Riverside Arts Academy