TORCH

TORCH closes the social capital gap by recruiting and investing deeply in diverse, low-income, and first generation grads living in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta.

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In 2016, a fire squad of creatives and independent artists began a movement in NYC.

Vondell J. Burns (left) Robert D. Jackson (center) and Dimitri J. Möise (right)

Our Story:

After graduating from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a Drama degree, Robert D. Jackson identified a huge opportunity gap for low-income, first generation students to create sustainable incomes in the early stage of their artistic careers. In December of 2016, Robert along with several of his colleagues pledged to build a community of artists who can support one another with entrepreneurship skills to create income in new ways. With diversity, equity and inclusion being a new metric evaluated in the nonprofit sector, Robert and the TORCH Team recognized a new way to establish an education-to-employer pipeline.

Since 2016, TORCH has secured seed capital from individual donors, held several community events, workshops and entrepreneurship panels for high school and college students, en route to engage 10,000 people by 2025.

Long-term, TORCH aims to double lifetime income of members of the TORCH community, fueling upward mobility and fulfilling our collective promise of high education.

MISSION

Building a movement of diverse, upwardly mobile college grads overcoming underemployment through arts entrepreneurship.

Problem

Every college grad deserves a fair shot at a meaningful, upwardly mobile career. That’s the promise of higher education in America, and every year, millions of young people enroll, persist, and graduate on this premise, often with great sacrifice.

Yet nationwide, over two-thirds of performing arts college grads (ages 21-27) are unemployed or underemployed, including more than 90% of black college grads. (U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Even in the media and entertainment space, a bachelor’s degree is not enough. We need social capital—connections, casual favors, timely referrals—as much as we need skills. These favors travel quickly and organically across strong and weak social ties, but rarely across racial or economic lines.

* Underemployed: According to underemployment researcher Douglas Maynard of SUNY New Paltz, this can include workers who possess more formal education, higher-level skills, and more extensive work experience than the job requires, workers who are involuntarily employed in a field different than their formal education, workers who are involuntarily employed in a temporary, part-time, or intermittent employment, and workers who earn 20% or less than their previous jobs.

Current artist and arts entrepreneurs in the early stages of their professional careers lack strategic thinking, finance, and opportunity recognition skills to navigate the arts ecosystem. TORCH will unite college graduate artists and arts entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds with media and entertainment experts to fill the gap of underemployment. Because creative places and businesses in creative industries exist in rural and urban communities of all sizes and demographics, strengthening this segment of economic activity can have far ­reaching benefits. With the United States facing public spending cuts to the arts, public media, and community development, we need ways for investors to deploy values­ based capital to make up the difference for creatives.

Since 1995, the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) at the University of Pennsylvania has further documented how the presence of cultural resources in low ­income neighborhoods is “significantly” linked to better health, schooling, and security.



Goals and Objectives

  • To enrich the cultural life of the arts community.

  • To increase entrepreneurship skills for millennials from diverse backgrounds.

  • To support area artists in their professional development by working in a collaborative environment combining all artistic mediums to develop the content for the event.

  • To provide local residents and area visitors of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels with an accessible outlet for entertainment.

  • To empower recent college grads to feel confident in their career pursues.

  • To double lifetime income of members of the TORCH community.

  • To fuel upward mobility.

  • To fulfill our collective promise of higher education.