COMMUNITY GEM: Dayton man helps support children as they pursue arts

Young people often are told that they have plenty of time. But the fact is that it is constantly ticking away, artist and educator Robert Nate Owens said.

“You have to spend the time you have working toward your dream, toward your goal, as soon as you can,” he said.

Owens helped students make the most of their time and talents through last year’s first Signature Levitt Music and Arts Summer Camp. His vision for the weeklong camp, which he directed, took years to realize and gave teens the opportunity to see “what it feels like to take their art to the next level,” he said. The camp will return this summer.

“Whatever their talent is, they had to do it like a professional artist,” Owens said.

Those talents include urban creative arts, such as theater, dance, music and more. In addition to understanding more about their craft, they learned about the business side of art: branding, marketing and monetizing what they do.

“I want people to know that artists don’t have to starve,” he said.

Owens was nominated as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by Sierra Leone, his partner and fellow co-founder of the Home of Urban Creative Arts as well as Oral Funk Poetry Productions. The Dayton-based organizations have a local focus but connect national artists with those located in the Miami Valley.

Owens was an athlete who became an all-state football player growing up near Toledo in the 1990s. His own focus at the time was sports, but the arts were never far away. A great uncle was a Tony-nominated actor, and his godfather is blues musician B.B. King, a long-time friend of his family.

He buried his own artistic side before turning to poetry. He considers his debut the poetic musical “Eunice: Star Shine and Clay,” which he cowrote with Leone and was named a top theater show in Dayton for 2018.

Owens wasn’t exposed early on to careers in producing and curating art, Leone said. But as he transitioned out of a world centered on sports, he moved into one of service. He wanted to make an impact, she said, and his motivation has often been helping students and at-risk youth.

“He is an African American man in the greater Dayton area who has poured his life into celebrating urban creative artists and art and students and young people,” she said.

For both Owens and Leone, art is about much more than entertainment, she said. It’s about strengthening the artists themselves and helping them – especially young artists – serve their communities in the future.

Owens wants kids to feel supported as they pursue the arts. When they can’t find that support elsewhere, they will at the Home of Urban Creative Arts. No one should have to hide who they are. Instead, they should tap into what they feel is their purpose as early as they can.

“You’re already born with everything you need to be successful,” he said.

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