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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Artistic Activism

Entertainment for Change

When COVID-19 swiftly sent the country into a wave of change earlier this year, it became clear that life was about to look drastically different for most Americans. Broadway shows and entertainment events were suspended, graduations and summer camps were canceled, and many people found themselves with an extensive amount of free time on their hands—and desperation for even the smallest return to normalcy.

In the meantime, Jade Zaroff—an accomplished activist, voice-over actor, and entrepreneur in New York City—was working to shift her mission online and provide that sense of normalcy for children and artists—many of whom were not only missing the freedom brought by creative engagement but who were also struggling to make sense of the social and environmental issues plaguing this country.

“We all have a creative side to ourselves—it’s kind of just who
we are as people. And so I think I was focused on reframing
the conversation to encourage people to believe, ‘I can make an impact just by simply being creative and by being myself,’” says Zaroff. “I figured, if we had content that was advocating for social and environmental activism, we would have so much more power in terms of having people listen to what we have to say.”

Zaroff is the founder of Entertainment for Change (EFC)—a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works to connect children to artists on a national level through classes and programs, many that are aimed specifically at empowering youth to tap into their individual voice and creativity as a means to change society for the better.

The mission of the organization is to educate young people about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through nonprofit partnerships, original artistic creations, and an advisory board made up of prominent, socially conscious sponsors.

For Zaroff, the goal has always been simple: to reinforce the idea that tackling large-scale global issues doesn’t have to
be complicated, so long as we each take responsibility for our actions. Impactful solutions to some of the world’s most complex issues don’t have to be informed by policy or simple economic advancements—it’s our job to use our collective talents and creative resources for true environmental and social change.

“When I decided that I wanted to change the world through art, I didn’t know where to even begin. So, when I found the Sustainable Development Goals, they provided a really concrete framework for what we’re even trying to work on globally. So, it was a really great way in which I didn’t have to create my own kind of languaging around what it means to change the world.”

Zaroff grew up in the Florida theater scene and then went on to attend Emerson College in 2013. She majored in Theatre Studies and minored in the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3), which is a yearlong immersive marketing communication program that teaches students how to build and launch a new business venture.

Zaroff developed her idea for EFC in her senior year as part of her E3 minor and filed EFC as a 501(c)3 nonprofit during her last month of college in the spring of 2016. The nonprofit concept also stemmed from her experience of creating the Emerson Green Gala in 2015, which is now regarded as an annual event at the school that celebrates Earth Day through artistic expression.

Inspired by what she learned at Emerson and the influence of her mother’s career (Marci Zaroff) in sustainable fashion, Zaroff was motivated to continue creating impactful change. Today, the nonprofit is successful largely because of the passion of its leaders and their drive to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the organization’s entire community. Even in the age of COVID, they’ve managed to adapt through digital course offerings.

“With EFC as a platform, we were trying to focus on the creation of content for the next generation, and then we were implementing these social and environmental messages through Zoom calls and classes, Instagram Live segments, and a number of other digital mediums that could promote engagement and connectivity—even while many people were still not physically connected.”

Through the summer months, classes were led by Broadway and arts and entertainment professionals, with the curriculum emphasizing sustainability activism. In August, the EFC team led impact artist classes, and the nonprofit also offered master class sessions that were hosted by industry professionals on a regular basis.

Outside of educational classes, EFC supports a number of original ideas and projects. The Amplify Podcast is an interactive podcast and video series that works to raise awareness regarding the United Nations’ 17 SDGs for youth via monthly talent show competitions. The nonprofit scouts three talented artists to feature for each monthly episode.

The team also championed an original Disney-styled song titled This Is Our Shot, which was created by Zaroff and EFC partners to empower kids via an animated music video.

Looking into the season ahead, EFC is still continuing to grow its reach in an effort to effectively educate youth about positive ways to address environmental and social issues. Those who are a part of the organization can still anticipate the same sort of engaging content and curriculum throughout the fall season. But in the midst of so much uncertainty, they’re also relying on the input of community members to gauge what they can do to support children and artists.

“I’m going to ebb and flow depending on logistics going into the fall, and kind of listen and respond to the needs of parents depending on the situation with schools and such.”

Despite much of the program being hosted digitally, the nonprofit has created a community of artists, dreamers, and activists who are collectively pooling their talents and voices to champion things that truly matter.

“It’s like being in love, and I’m in love with what I do. I love the Earth. I love being ridiculous in an Earth costume and performing for people. I love being an artist because I studied musical theater for my first two years in college and then switched to acting with a minor in entrepreneurship. I love entrepreneurship, and I’ve been given that influence from my mom. It’s just the most fulfilling work.”

At EFC, the nonprofit emphasizes the importance of providing safe spaces to connect inward, in order to truly make a difference in the world through the power of one’s authentic artistic expression.

For more information, visit www.entertainmentforchange.com.


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