After prison, men giving kids exposure to arts they never had

The sounds of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps you’ve had the privilege of enjoying one of their shows.

For a group of men at the South Bend Community Re-Entry Center, it’s a new experience they’ve become hooked on, ever since the symphony started giving them tickets a couple years ago as part of their community outreach efforts.

This weekend the men have spearheaded a project to expose some inner-city kids to the symphony. The men, who are transitioning from prison terms to re-entering the community, raised money to buy the children tickets to the symphony’s Sunday production of Peter & the Wolf.

It might seem like a strange pairing, ex-convicts and the symphony, but Marvin Curtis, president of the symphony’s board, said he’s seen them fall in love with the orchestra. The men reached into their own pockets to send 160 kids to the symphony’s Beethoven concert in April.

“A couple of them came to me and said, ‘We want to help keep the kids off the street, and we want to expose kids to things we weren’t exposed to,’” Curtis says.

Curtis says he hopes the men will continue cultivating their love of the arts and sharing it with youth.

“And I challenged them, when I spoke with them, I said, when you guys come back to society, take a kid to an art event. We’ve got museums. We’ve got events all over the city, all over the world. Because that’s how you can change their life. Most of these guys were not exposed.”

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