Scott Bishop

Tracy Furtado-Chagas

DREAM OUT LOUD

Making Huge Impressions on the South Coast’s Youth

May 03, 2023

IN-FOCUS ARTICLE: Dream Out Loud Center – Making Huge Impressions

Going to the Dream Out Loud Center as a student made a huge impression on Kris Motta. Of course, opening for Eddie Money will do that to you. You read that right. Motta, currently the Program Director at Dream Out Loud, was a 13-year-old student in the music program of what was then called Brick by Brick.

“It was the Rock4Xmas show, across the bridge (at the Seaport Inn). [The music students] opened up for Eddie Money. Eddie Munster (actor Butch Patrick) of The Munsters was also there.“That was my first experience of, ‘This is what being a musician is.’”(For the record: Mr. Money also performed at Assawompset Elementary School in Lakeville earlier the same day. Quite the rock ‘n’ roll day for the South Coast!)

This story highlights two things. First, Dream Out Loud’s programs prepare its students for a professional life in whatever art form they pursue, be it music, creative writing, or digital art. Not everyone is going to open for Eddie Money—at age 13, no less!—but one way or another, Dream Out Loud adeptly guides its students into the professional world. Second, Dream Out Loud is built on a unique continuity.

Many of its students go on to pursue the careers they first learned about at DOLC; more than that, many of them bring that professional knowledge back to the center to impart on another generation of students. Motta cited Angel Diaz, who attended Dream Out Loud as a student and was the Music Program Coordinator by the time Motta enrolled.

And if they’re not coming back to work in the program, says Executive Director Tracy Furtado-Chagas, they’re finding other ways to give back. “One of the youths that were pivotal in creating our teen magazine, Joel Cordero, just recently returned. He now has his own artistic photography business, Cordero Video & Photo, and was one of the first drone operators [for photo and video].

He has beautiful aerial shots of real estate and the New Bedford waterfront. He’s having his first showing of them here at the Kilburn Mill in the Event Center Friday, June 16, 2023*, and he’s donating the ticket sales proceeds to Dream Out Loud. We’ve been able to reconnect. It’s just such an honor when that happens. “We have one alumnus, Jonathan Ramos, finishing up his Music Business degree in Nashville. We have another, Molly O’Leary, who’s making a really great name for their music.” And who, I should add, just recorded their second record with indie country artist Will Hoge… in Nashville.

Dream Out Loud’s origins go back nearly 25 years. The organization was founded by Lynn Donohue, a New Bedford native who dropped out of high school and found her passion through bricklaying. Furtado-Chagas was working at Spinner Publications when it published Donohue’s memoir, Brick by Brick: A Woman’s Journey, in 2000. Donohue wanted to create an organization that could support the city’s youth.

In parallel with that, Spinner collaborated with ArtWorks, New Directions, and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park to create a historical project of oral histories of the community. Furtado-Chagas’s ambition was to have students create the publication. The only problem: the subject matter held no interest for them.

“It was a group of 10 youths, and one day I just started to think about my publishing experience and my high school experience working on a student newspaper. I came to them and said, ‘What about a student magazine?’ And it was instantly transformational. The students started to put together their first publication, which was called PHAT—the Publication for the History of Art of Teenagers.” Donohue was looking for an Executive Director for the new organization she named after her book: Brick by Brick. Furtado-Chagas had the ideal program: student publishers.

“Lynn and the board said, ‘Grow your vision.’ I started as the first Executive Director in May of 2001, and we moved to downtown New Bedford, where the Co-Creative Center is now. We had two floors and 200 youths within a year. The publishing program combined with the music program, created by a local musician Jeff Lambert, to become the Creative Careers program, which is the same program that we’ve been doing now for 20-something years.”

These days enrollment is about half of what it was at its peak. Furtado-Chagas said, “Unfortunately, we haven’t got us back to the 200 students a year, which I know is easily achievable with the right funding. At that time, we were able to provide transportation to and from houses and schools. We still provide it to and from schools, but we’ve never been able to reach that level of funding that provided transportation from houses.” That’s important, because half of Dream Out Loud’s classes happen later in the evening, well after what we’d traditionally call “afterschool.”

Still, Furtado-Chagas feels like guardian angels are watching over them. Early on, she said, “We had just lost our first major grant, a $75,000 grant that was supposed to renew. It was my first challenge as Executive Director. We had 200 youths at that time. All I was thinking was, ‘I need $5,000 for payroll.’

Lynn Donohue happened to be present at that moment. We were strategizing how we were going to get through it so we didn’t have to cancel the program. It was devastating for us. Then this woman comes in and says, ‘I want to make a donation,’ which happens—not often enough, but it happens. And then she handed me a check for $5,000.”

“I told her that it sounded like something out of the old “Touched by an Angel” TV show. And then she adds something that even the writers of that show might have found too improbable to script. She came back and supported us at $25,000. And now she funds the rent, which we’re so blessed to have. But that moment has always stayed with me, and at times when cash flow is challenging, I think of a poem she wrote me one time–about when you think you can’t move forward, you basically fly. You know, always have faith. Faith has wings.”

That rent gets paid to Dream Out Loud’s new home, Kilburn Mill. Motta said the space they occupy is larger than their previous downtown location near the waterfront, and they’d like to eventually expand further at Kilburn. That would allow Dream Out Loud to offer theatre classes once again.

What makes these classes accessible to the middle and high school students Dream Out Loud serves: they’re free. According to Furtado-Chagas, “Our services are 95% low income. I’m a first-generation college graduate, and I believe very much in education, but when you’re supporting your own education, it comes with a lot of costs.”

That investment allows Dream Out Loud’s students to excel and flourish in their creative endeavors and sets the table for a promising career down the road. More than that, Dream Out Loud’s students are set up powerfully to have fulfilling creative lives. “Monetary success is not the value. It’s the individual value that the students bring. But you have to keep a space going, and it comes down to, there’s the time or the treasure. And we have a lot of the time. I think that’s the best gift.”

 *(You can order the Joel Cordero event tickets at joelcordero.com.) 

DREAM OUT LOUD
Kilburn Mill

127 West Rodney French Blvd.
New Bedford, MASSACHUSETTS 02744

508-990-9090

 

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SCOTT BISHOP

Scott is a New Bedford-based singer, songwriter, and sound sculptor. He’s also The Artists Index’s Music & Performing Arts Podcast Host and In-Focus Article writer. Scott’s been creating music under the name Scapeghost since 2016.

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