The Cathedral Arts Project is an arts education organization serving the children of Northeast Florida by providing access to instruction in the visual and performing arts. It was founded in 1993 by a small group of individuals from St. John’s Cathedral wanting to provide arts instruction to underserved and at-risk youth. We chatted with CAP’s President and CEO, Rev. Kimberly Hyatt, to learn more about the organization and about her career as an arts leader in Florida.
Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): How long have you lived and worked in Florida?
Kimberly: This summer will be 23 years. I came to Florida in 1996 and have been with the Cathedral Arts Project since 2002.
DCA: Tell us about your work with the Cathedral Arts Project. What is the best part of your job?
Kimberly: The children are definitely the best part of the job — just witnessing how the arts can transform a child’s life. We see time and time again that there’s something about the arts to reach children in ways nothing else can. The arts stay with them for life and it is really a privilege to witness.
DCA: What are some of the challenges involved with leading this organization?
Kimberly: When leading any institution there are always challenges to overcome and we try to see these as opportunities to solve. One challenge would be the fact that there are so many children in our community who would benefit from an arts-rich education. Continuously trying to serve these children while maintaining the standards of our programming is definitely a challenge — to balance growth with maintaining quality.
Right now, it is especially important to make sure everyone understands how vital the arts are when it comes to issues of mental health. It’s so tough to be growing up today and I really feel that it is more important than ever that children be able to utilize the arts as a means of self-expression. I think anyone who watched the powerful performance by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas theatre students at last year’s Tony Awards is aware of just how important the arts can be when facing complex challenges.
Getting everyone to understand that if you care about public education, you must care about arts education is also particularly challenging. We’ve been able to move the needle a great deal here in Jacksonville, but it is so important that everyone learns how impactful an arts education can be. We know what the arts are capable of achieving and we want to make them the top of everyone’s minds.
DCA: How has the organization evolved over the years?
Kimberly: When I came the budget was small, under $100,000. It was a fledgling ministry of the local cathedral that had just recently become a standalone nonprofit organization. Now our budget is over $2 million and growing — so we’ve definitely evolved in that way. This has allowed us to grow from being a small organization serving just a few children to a more complex organization that serves many more children, working collectively with others for systemic change. Today I tend to put our work into three buckets.
The first is that we teach children, so we provide arts learning to children who need it the most. That will always be the heart and soul of what we do. The Cathedral Arts Project also provides professional development for local artists, educators, and school administrators. The third bucket is advocacy. We spend a lot of energy on advocacy, working to broaden the relevance of arts education in the minds of families, policymakers, and business leaders. This goes hand-in-hand with what I said earlier, that caring about public education means caring about arts education.
For a program that started out serving just 10 kids in an afterschool dance class, we’ve grown tremendously. We directly impact more than 1,000 students each year through our afterschool and summer programs but are able to serve many more through the various facets of our programming. Over the years, more than 28,000 children have been enrolled in our programs.
DCA: Which counties or areas does your organization serve?
Kimberly: We serve all of Duval County, which has over 129,000 students enrolled in public schools.
DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution the Cathedral Arts Project makes to the community?
Kimberly: It goes back to our mission statement. I truly believe that we are enriching the quality of life here for generations to come. The latter part of that statement is easy for us to sometimes gloss over, but the transformative effect that our work is having on a child’s life will have ripple effects for generations to come, in countless ways.
DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”? Why are the arts and culture important to our state?
Kimberly: I think that culture really is what sets us apart as a state. Culture draws visitors to come and have experiences that they can’t have anywhere else. Culture is what draws companies to relocate their communities and it’s why people want to live here. I think it is culture that joins all of us to work here together, regardless of how different we might be. I believe that arts and culture provide opportunities for each of us to feel like we belong and to understand each other and really build one another up.
The Division thanks Rev. Kimberly Hyatt and the CAP team for their participation in this interview. To learn more about the Cathedral Arts Project, visit their website: https://capkids.org/.