Humans of AIR- Debra Holloway

Debra Holloway



“You can learn to do anything—especially if it’s hard, it’s worth doing.”

Arts In Reach is pleased to welcome Debra Holloway as our new Executive Director! Deb has been a part of AIR in one way or another since the very beginning in 1998. She has conducted research, facilitated programs, taught workshops as an artist, and has served on the air board, program committee and advisory panel. Deb says that she originally got involved in AIR because she wanted to study the impact of arts participation on underserved teenage girl. However, “AIR’s mission, which has remained consistent since its beginning, and its community—the teens, staff, and supporters—are what have kept me involved for over twenty years.”

When asked what AIR means to her Deb said, “AIR is as essential to the young women in our programs as the air they breathe.” Deb also said “the AIR community is one of the most dedicated and committed group of people I have ever known.” We as an organization make a conscious effort to continuously build a strong and supportive community. We often hear from our teens that AIR is like a family to them and that is really true. Another strength in our community is our staff, small but mighty! AIR has been fortunate over the years to continuously have staff that are truly committed to the mission. We continue this trend with Deb as our new Executive Director.

Deb also got a change to describe her favorite AIR memory, “I have so many great AIR memories, but the most recent occurred last spring at the final showcase for AIR’s pilot program at the Exeter Area YMCA. For six weeks, a group of Exeter-area teens, all new to AIR, gathered at the YMCA and painted a huge wall mural in collaboration with muralist Sam Paolini. At the final showcase, after the teens showed family and friends their mural and the program staff presented them with certificates and roses, usually marking the end of a showcase, the teens asked if everyone involved with the program could circle up one more time away from the guests. They wanted to do a “check-in,” the beginning activity of each program meeting, by describing what kind of Pringles chip each of us felt like and why. As the teens and staff expressed how much they had gained from the program, I felt incredibly moved. Then the teens asked to “pass the pulse,” the typical end of each program meeting. We held hands around the circle and one-by-one squeezed our neighbor’s hand until “the pulse” returned to the person who started it. This final circle embodied the empowering experience of inclusive, creative community and not wanting it to end.”

“Keep expressing your voice by making art”