My heart is heavy on this gloomy Tuesday evening, as I still find myself, like most of you, reeling from Monday, October 24th’s horrific act of violence that occurred at Central Visual And Performing Arts High School. As the new President and CEO of the Arts and Education Council of St Louis, I didn’t want my first social media message to the arts community at large to be about a school shooting. But as a native St Louisan and proud graduate of CVPA (Class of 1987), I wanted to…NO, I needed to speak up and speak out about the state we find ourselves in yet again in this country. And now as a community we must prepare to heal, like so many have had to do in other cities. As a mother, my heart aches for every agonizing moment any parent spent waiting for news about the safety of their child. My heart aches for the two beautiful souls we lost.  Gone too soon, the bright light of a brilliant, young, beautiful mind full of promise, and the kind spirit of a dedicated and brave educator. We will never forget your courage. 

Our schools are supposed to be safe havens for young people to grow, discover their dreams, and flourish. A safe space for our educators to thrive, guide, nurture, and unlock the doors of possibilities life has to offer to their students.  Therefore, words are no longer enough…it’s time for real and lasting action because our children and the teachers, who hold the keys to those doors, deserve better. It’s time for our community leaders, politicians, and city and state officials to come together on ONE accord to act with effective legislation!

So as the students, teachers, administrators, and families face a new day, know that the thoughts and prayers of the staff of the Arts and Education Council are with you.  And although we shed tears today, remember that through the arts we can heal…together. I am so proud that on January 30, 2023, during our annual Arts Awards gala event, A&E was already set to honor the legendary Central Visual And Performing Arts High School dance teacher, Raymond Parks, with the Catalyst Award: Arts Legend. Mr. Parks has dedicated his life to teaching students the power and beauty of dance. His lifetime award has even more significance now, and I can’t wait to celebrate him, along with our other dynamic honorees.

In closing, the Central Visual And Performing Arts High School family is a living example of the simple philosophy A&E upholds: What makes us human and unique is our ability to imagine. My plea today, is that we do not allow the insurmountable pain and loss we’ve endured rob us of our ability to imagine. The Arts and Education Council sends its love, and support to the each of you.

Artfully Yours,

Lyah LeFlore-Ituen

President and CEO, Arts and Education Council of St. Louis