Art Saves Lives program starts June 24

POSTED: 06/5/13 12:08 PM
De Weever: I want to give children a life of meaning
Nicole de Weever (left) and Erika Cannegieter (right) at the Art Saves Lives and Be The Change fundraiser at The Red Piano lounge on Sunday.

Nicole de Weever (left) and Erika Cannegieter (right) at the Art Saves Lives and Be The Change fundraiser at The Red Piano lounge on Sunday.

St. Maarten – In days gone by, a St. Maarten girl dreamt of becoming a professional dancer. Nicole de Weever did just that. She later embarked on a remarkable career, full of self-discovery. It took her to places far across the world, where she met many interesting people along the way, including Beyonce and Alicia Keys. Now, together with her childhood friend, Erika Cannegieter, these local ladies are giving back to the place that first fostered those dreams through their non-profit foundations, Art Saves Lives and Be The Change.

But can the arts really save lives? Drawing from real life experience, the answer is yes for Nicole. She spent time volunteering in neglected inner city high schools of New York City, describing the bleak prospects youngsters there faced, many of whom were long deprived of hope. She was moved by the “impact on their lives” her world of creative dance had. It kindled in her the idea to do the same in St. Maarten, where she feels the arts in general still “struggle to get support”, though she quickly added that many in the local arts scene are “doing their best with what they have” given the limited resources and finances on offer. More, however, can be done.

Though still based in the US with an active dance career, De Weever returns here as often as she can and will host annual workshops for aspiring local artists featuring professionals from around the world to teach the various classes. The first such workshop will begin during the week of June 24th at Port de Plaisance’s Country Club, whose management donated the use of the facility.

The idea behind the initiative is that by opening up the minds of wayward or vulnerable children to the wider world of the arts, it can help save them from a negative future, providing them “a life of meaning” as she puts it.  Through exposure to the arts in a nurturing environment, whether dance or theater or writing, children can potentially awaken the creativity that sleeps inside.

These workshops will provide professional guidance to local artists in “eventually having a successful career of their own” by “showing them a way,” in the world, she said.  But Arts Saves Lives can’t help vulnerable kids without generous community support.

Be The Change, then, partners perfectly with local foundations like Art Saves Lives. It takes its name from Mahatma Ghandi’s philosophy of each person being the change in the world. Established in May 2012, Be The Change “was born out of a concern for the often times overlooked, neglected, and unknown social movements occurring everyday” on St. Maarten, and is the brainchild of Erika Cannegieter. It’s a community fundraiser, organizing events to raise funds for much needed non-governmental organizations on St. Maarten doing valuable work in the community. It’s an initiative to pool community resources together and redirecting them toward invaluable social services. And has the community responded to the call of being the change?

“Yes. We currently have over 70 members,” Erika Cannegieter said, and these “members are residents or locals on the island, St. Maarteners abroad, and tourists who love the island”.  She added that “people innately do want to give back, but because of busy daily routines etc., they find it difficult to do so.” Be The Changes offers them a convenient tool to learn more about who needs what and to give back.

Last Sunday, Be The Change and Art Saves Lives hosted their first public fundraiser, a well-attended event, including Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, at The Red Piano Lounge featuring local and regional talent in the arts, an event which raised over $2,000. The proceeds will go toward providing lunch to the children who attend the upcoming Art Saves Lives workshops.

“In the end,” wrote Russian writer Dostoevsky, “it’s not truth or morality, but beauty that will save the world.” Art Saves Lives and Be The Change may just make those words true.

Art Saves Lives can be contacted at and Be The Change by visiting their website at


Did you like this? Share it:
Art Saves Lives program starts June 24 by

Comments are closed.