Kicking off our staff interview series with Exec Director Eric Delli Bovi!

April 8-9, 2013 (that’s today! Is it already April, seriously?) is Arts Advocacy Day. What does this signify for you? This is the perfect opportunity to tell someone you know about the importance of the arts and arts education. Here to help you out with some inspiration is Urban Gateways Executive Director Eric Delli Bovi.

We’re kicking off a series of Urban Gateways staff Q+As, for a few reasons: 1) It’s fun, 2) Our staffers are crazy fun and you really ought to know them, and 3) They have incredible things to say about arts education and its impact. What better place to start than with Eric? Enjoy!

Urban Gateways: In your own words, what exactly is it that you do at Urban Gateways?

Eric Delli Bovi, Executive Director: To use an arts analogy, as executive director I conduct an orchestra of artists, staff and volunteers. I guess the music we produce together determines how well we fulfill the mission of Urban Gateways.

What is your earliest memory of being involved in the arts?

I had art and music classes since I was in kindergarten, but it all happened for me in 3rd grade. We had a visiting artist come to my school and share African culture. He played the talking drum and some other instruments and it seems like I never had much interest in anything but drumming since then. The moment was actually captured by the local paper and I keep the picture from that day next to my desk. It keeps me focused on what is truly important on a personal level as to why access to the arts is critical for every child.

What has been the most inspiring moment you have experienced during your time with Urban Gateways so far?

I am always inspired when I witness both the process and product of art making among our students. There is just so much power and potential I see in the work, and it keeps me motivated to improve and expand these experiences.

Two truths and a lie?

I am left-handed, I make amazing chocolate chip cookies, and I am an early riser.

Can you name one arts concentration that you wish you had the talent to do (ballet, painting watercolors, playing the trumpet, spoken word, etc.)?

I guess I wish I could sing. I have a horrible voice. I really enjoy playing the guitar and I attempt to sing, but I would love to be able to belt out a tune – in tune. I’m sure it was an another influence on my gravitation to the drums.

If you could change one thing about arts education in Chicago schools, what would it be and why?

I am optimistic about the new Chicago Cultural Plan and the CPS Arts Plan, and I hope that we as a city can generate and sustain the resources our kids deserve. Chicago is a world-class artistic and cultural hub with an abundance of civic will, so access should never be an issue. But Chicago Public Schools particularly and public education nationally are in crisis, and I don’t see any easy solutions any time soon.

Where is your favorite cultural location in Chicago?

There are so many, but I really cannot wait until all of the summer concerts and festivals are in full swing. I’m ready to enjoy Chicago arts and culture outside!

Let’s be honest, have you ever fallen asleep while attending some kind of a live performance?

I can’t think of one, but I might have to check that claim with Carolyn (wife)! I do have some mental games that I employ depending on the situation to pass the time if I am in danger of nodding off.

Why are you an advocate for the arts?

People tend to gravitate towards supporting their personal causes, and I simply cannot imagine a child growing up without the life lessons that the arts provide in terms of creativity, innovation, self-expression, collaboration, improvisation, empathy, cultural awareness, etc. I view arts participation as a basic human right and social priority, and never as a luxury only for those that can afford it.