Multistudio KC Hosts Avrell Stokes from BeGreat Together

Diosselyn Tot and Avrell Stokes share the DocuCourse Series: Art & Advocacy: A Changemaker's Story March 7, 2023

Last week we opened our studio to Avrell Stokes and his team at BeGreat Together, where we had a viewing and a follow-up Q&A for the DocuCourse, Art & Advocacy.

Avrell is the President of BeGreat Together, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that allocates resources and builds awareness of economic, social, and environmental factors impacting disinvested communities. Stokes frequently uses the arts to unite communities and create opportunities, especially those that support the development of minority public schools.

DocuCourse is a BeGreat Together multimedia platform that combines community stories with strategies to inspire change. There are four categories within DocuCourse: Arts, Family, Health, and Justice, and each course highlights a change maker, the strategies that they executed when they approached a project, and the lessons learned from each endeavor. In this manner, DocuCourse shares real-world solutions and strategies for ongoing campaigns that empower people through place.

Diosselyn Tot was the changemaker highlighted in the DocuCourse shown Multistudio, where she shared her experience and the subsequent strategies that came out of her work. Tot is an Associate Relationship Manager at NeighborWorks America for the Midwest Region and co-founded Urbanworks, LLC., which seeks to drive community building and engagement through arts and green initiatives.

“Sometimes the kids in our neighborhoods don’t even get out of the city let alone the state […] Don’t just look at arts as a tool for youth development, look at the arts as a tool for youth empowerment.”

Images: February 22, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; BeGreat Together at Multistudio KC. Credit: Liam Hogan.

Often, Diosselyn uses art as a tool to nurture youth and transform their neighborhoods. Her work began with gathering art supplies and recruiting volunteers to paint murals in Kansas City alleyways. Then, it evolved into rehabilitating an abandoned gas station into a studio space called Urban Station KCK (picture below).

Today, young people take art classes at Urban Station and learn how to advocate for their community through art. During the DocuCourse viewing, we learned Diosselyn’s steps to advance her vision and overcome racial and environmental barriers. At the end of the documentary, Diosselyn offers a concise course on the principles of the art and advocacy process and how future leaders can use art to mobilize change within their own city.

Images: December 16, 2021, & May 14, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; The University of Kansas School of Architecture & Design students working on the Urban Station KCK. Credit: Matt Kleinmann.
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