Zola Barnes, a fourth-year student at Oberlin College and Conservatory, is a leader in promoting the accessibility of the arts and in building relationships between Oberlin College students and the broader community through the arts. Zola sees the arts as a vehicle to connect people across divides, and in 2016 she worked with a group of arts organizations in Oberlin to create a unified programming calendar. This year Zola served as a teaching assistant for the community-based learning course Ethnomusicology as Activism, working closely with students to help them develop and implement projects that were sustainable and ethical in their approach. She has a particular passion for working with youth and ensuring that children in public schools have meaningful opportunities to engage with diverse forms of music and art.
Growing up I was lucky enough to have access to an amazing arts education from Baltimore City Public Schools. I will always be grateful for that access, which I know not everyone has. Since coming to Oberlin I have been able to engage in a number of music-based community learning projects with Oberlin City residents. Going to school in Oberlin, a school within a larger city community, allowed me the wonderful opportunity to share the art that was so crucial to my own education and development. While at Oberlin I have worked with the newly formed Oberlin Arts organization to compile a comprehensive Arts Calendar, allowing more community members to know about, and access art events. I was also welcomed into Oberlin's Prospect Elementary School and Langston Middle School to conduct music workshops with various groups of students. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with Oberlin's young students and share with them some of the art that has made such a difference for me and so many others. I look forward to continuing this musical journey, and working so that Oberlin Public School students have greater access to free and approachable music and arts education.