Downtown Miami

The Motivational Edge hosts annual showcase of students’ artistic and music abilities

Ian Welsch, left, and DJ Irie on stage giving thanks for the support and progress of the students.
Ian Welsch, left, and DJ Irie on stage giving thanks for the support and progress of the students.

It was a night full of music, dancing and artistic expression for the students of the Motivational Edge, a youth development agency that focuses on helping kids stay off the streets through after-school activities.

Their annual Music & Art Student Showcase, Aug. 13 at McCormick Place in downtown Miami, had a full house of guests to see paintings, sculptures and performances presented by the young people.

“We’ve tried to create a platform for inner-city youth to feel appreciated and have their voice be heard; build confidence; build morale and find an outlet to success and to know what it feels like to be successful,” said Ian Welsch, 33, founder of the Motivational Edge.

Welsch began the Motivational Edge in 2008 as a nonprofit organization. The goal: creating a program that keeps kids focused on activities that will educate and help them enhance their passion for the arts and music, while also staying out of trouble in and out of school.

The organization focuses on three main pillars of the arts: urban arts expressions, creative writing, and lyrical expression and dance expression. It currently has more than 200 active students in Florida, who receive after-school classes at least two times per week taught by professional art and music instructors.

Creative writing, urban arts expression, dance expression, music and autism, early childhood literacy, tutoring and lyrical expression fall within the after-school and weekend programs offered at various locations in South Florida. The programs are given in group homes for youth in foster care, schools, a statewide inpatient psychiatric program for teenagers and at Chapman Partnership — an empowerment center for the homeless.

The main center where the Motivational Edge operates is in Allapattah. It is called the Irie Foundation Allapattah Music and Literacy Center in honor of DJ Irie, who donated $75,000 to the Motivational Edge in 2014.

“I’m extremely happy about our pledge of support for the Motivational Edge, because of all these beautiful faces right here,” said Irie, who made an appearance and gave a speech during the event. “This is why we show the level of dedication and commitment; because we believe in the art of expression; folks having the opportunity to pursue their passion, no matter what it is, especially the arts.”

Welsch – who has a master’s degree in education – founded the Motivational Edge after years of being a professor and realizing that his passion was composed of not only teaching but also helping others succeed.

The Motivational Edge is a way for people, especially younger, to be empowered, build confidence, and excel far beyond their reach, by bridging the gap between what people may want to do and what they can truly apply themselves to do and be, Welsch said.

“I don’t believe anyone should really settle for mediocrity, but I believe that a lot of people do because of the lack of real opportunity,” he said.

In 2013, the Motivational Edge organized its first music and art showcase, offering students the opportunity to exhibit their work and perform to a crowd full of friends, family and supporters.

Axel Sierra, 18, who wants to further his college studies in graphic design, presented his art at the Music & Art Student Showcase last year and this.

“It’s hard as an artists to get your art work out there, and through here it’s not easy but it’s an amazing opportunity that I’m lucky to have,” Sierra said. “Most of my opportunities throughout these two years have been through the Edge.”

The Motivational Edge has 14 instructors who assist children and teens with art, music and academic-related activities.

The professors are artists who through training and professional development became teaching instructors. Many were seen at the showcase on Thursday, showing support and joy for their students.

Some danced in the crowd, others performed onstage along with the kids, and others displayed their artwork posted on the walls of the gallery.

Karina Esquivo, 22, is a graphic design student at Miami Dade College, who worked as an art instructor for the Motivational Edge during the summer.

“[I] help them out with their art because sometimes they need a little touching up or instructions on how to make a piece better and that’s what I do,” Esquivo said. “They practice so hard. Even sometimes they felt like giving up and we push them. I love their passion and it makes me happy that I impact that and [that] I made them happy.”

The annual music and art showcase, was the third consecutive event that brings homage to the kids that have been a part of the Motivational Edge and who have grown and accomplished art-related projects throughout the year.

The evening included dancing, rapping, singing, instrument playing and an art exhibit with paintings and sculptures. There was also a bar serving cocktails and soft drinks, provided by sponsors. Outside there was a food truck serving finger food. Throughout the event, a raffle was also offered with any proceeds going to the Motivational Edge.

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