Whether you watched the 2013 Academy Awards or not, you’re likely by now to have heard of Inocente Izucar, the young San Diego artist whose life story was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary film, “Inocente.” In late April, she paid a visit to the Nativity campus and spoke with students about her art work, her struggles as a homeless teen, and her aspirations for the future.
When asked if she was thinking about a career as an artist, her short answer was “Yes.” When pressed for details, she offered that joining the circus as a trapeze artist was something she might like to do. “I tried trapeze once,” she said, “but I fell… fortunately, there was a net to catch me. It was so much fun!”
Inocente’s welcoming and whimsical disposition contradicts what many people might expect of someone who grew up homeless. And she certainly is the first to admit that the experience of being homeless was very hard for her and her family. The documentary film about her life emphasizes this point as well, but the message of the film and the focus of her presentation at Nativity was one of hope.
“I really like her,” a Nativity sixth grader commented. “There is a lot I relate to about her. She has been through a lot but is very positive…her art has helped make her stronger.”
After entertaining a series of questions from Nativity students, Inocente spent time working with them on their own art work. A number of students formed a cue to ask for her autograph.
When speaking about her own growth as an artist, Inocente shared with Nativity students that she has always loved to draw and paint, and while attending the Monarch School in San Diego, a school for homeless teens, she got involved in a local after-school program called A.R.T.S. (A Reason to Survive) and began to blossom as a young artist. It was also through A.R.T.S. that the producers of the documentary film learned about Inocente.
“When the Fines called, looking for a story about perseverance, I thought of her right away,” said Matt D’Arrigo, executive director of A.R.T.S. “And now the movie has helped us to talk about the healing power of art and to advocate on behalf of the homeless all over the country.”
The capacity for art in all its forms—music, visual art, dance, writing, and theatre—to help heal, transform, and empower people of all ages is what inspired D’Arrigo to found his non-profit more than ten years ago. Today, A.R.T.S. serves thousands of families and students who have found advocates to support their creative interests and help them transform their struggles into success.
“Art is what helped me heal (when his mother and sister got sick with cancer),” D’Arrigo says. “And now I want to help share that with others.”
We are all grateful to Matt D’Arrigo and to Inocente for sharing their stories with us and for spending time with our students. We wish them all the success on their cross-country “Inocente Tour”!