A tiny theater along the streets of downtown Muncie, the GoldSpace Theater is seeing the magical effect that exposing troubled youth to the arts and allowing their creativity to blossom can have on the lives of those children.
Bringing music, theater, poetry and art to at-risk youth has been the focus of GoldSpace since it opened in 2011.
Flo Lapin, director of the Muncie Youth Embrace Creativity, has owned and operated the theater for around 20 years alongside her sister. The theater itself originally belonged to Lapin’s grandfather and was once known as the Biscuit Bar.
“Thanks to the kindness of friends…we scraped off a half a century of grease to turn this into a little theater,” said Lapin.
The GoldSpace Theater helps the at-risk youth of Muncie and those who are part of the Youth Opportunity Center. These troubled children are provided with a safe place to live through the YOC.
“We set the program up, we go to the centers, we present an interactive informational kind of a program, 15-20 minutes. The kids sign up and then they are reviewed by the counselors there at YOC to see whether it’s really a good fit for the kids,” Lapin said.
The children of the YOC who use GoldSpace as an outlet for their emotions to let their creativity flourish seem to enjoy every second of their time spent in the small, three-roomed theater. They are provided with a safe environment where they can let go of their troubles and express themselves, while being in a community of people who can offer them support.
“There’s no judging of themselves, no judging of each other, and so GoldSpace itself has become a part of their joy,” said Lapin
Dramatic improvements can be seen not only in the academic performances of these children but also in their leadership abilities and their interactions with other children. Lapin says the evidence is overwhelming that these children experience improvements in all areas of their lives. The YOC is working on a surveyinstrument that will help demonstrate the impact that GoldSpace sees every day.
Lapin’s work has impacted her life in immeasurable ways. She says that if she had started this work sooner, she would have been at YOC because she thinks it’s one of the best juvenile centers available to children. However, GoldSpace has also been one of the most challenging endeavors of her life. The concept of GoldSpace is so enticing, but the little things, like renting violins and coordinating with the YOC, are a few of the difficulties she has encountered along the way, she says.
Finding and maintaining good teachers who can impact the children in a positive way and helping the quiet ones come out of their shells is also a challenge. After finding the right people for the job, the connections that are made with the children are very apparent.
“Just watching them, some of them come in and they’re shy and they don’t want to talk. Many of them will sit for several weeks without getting involved with the improvisations, but once they do, wow. There’s all this personality, there’s all this talent. It’s amazing,” said Lapin.
The children are what make all of the work that goes into GoldSpace worthwhile to Lapin, she says. Having the ability to offer them a community of supportive people in a safe place where they can express themselves is what makes GoldSpace special to everyone it helps.
“I love these kids, and someone asked me where did I really want to be; I’m retired after all. I said that I want to be here. This Muncie, Ind. that I couldn’t wait to leave when I was 17 years old; I want to be here and I want to be here because of the kids and because I think we’re making a small difference in their lives,” Lapin said.
Lapin also makes it a point to keep in touch with the kids even after they have grown up, proving to everyone that what the GoldSpace Theater does does truly make a difference in the lives of the children of Muncie.
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