ukeleles

‘This instrument brings joy’

A grant will help a Lincoln County arts activist spread happiness, one ukulele at a time

Crystal Akins calls herself an “arts activist” — that is, someone who “activates art in the community.” It’s a title bestowed by a journalist and one that Akins has been earning since her teen years, when she worked with the Ethos Music Center in Portland. During that stint, she says, she founded the first intergenerational women’s choir in Oregon, with a goal of  addressing sexism and ageism.

Crystal Akins, founder of the nonprofit Activate Arts, plans to use a $1,300 grant from the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition to buy dozens of ukuleles.
Crystal Akins, founder of the nonprofit Activate Arts, plans to use a $1,300 grant from the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition to buy dozens of ukuleles.

Recently, the Lincoln City music teacher founded the nonprofit Activate Arts. It was her response to the isolation of the pandemic, as well as a continuation of her goals of inclusion, community engagement, and creating access to the arts.

This fall, the nonprofit got a boost from the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition with a grant for $1,300. Akins plans to use it to buy an instrument that’s been played by everyone from Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole to Eddie Vedder to Tiny Tim. That’s right, the ukulele. And she’s planning to buy dozens of them, which aspiring players can borrow from Activate Arts.

“People generally love the ukulele,” Akins said, for its “sweet timbre” and small size.  People are sometimes overwhelmed by the larger instruments, she added, but the ukulele is “something you can hold close to you. And It’s playful. At a time like now, when there is a lot of fear, anxiety, this instrument brings joy.”

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