CSUN Alumnus Uses Art to Help Las Vegas Victims

  • CSUN alumnus and event organizer Daniel Cunningham (left) stands with guitarist and theatre major Elliot Mains. Photo by Paul Amico.

  • People drop off paintings for the Art Heals Lives in Las Vegas fundraiser. The artwork was sold and the proceeds were donated to charity. Photo by Paul Amico.

  • CSUN a capella group Vocal Performance Radio performs three songs for the Art Heals Lives in Las Vegas event at Matador Square. Photo by Paul Amico.

Music and art were extremely beneficial in helping California State University, Northridge alumnus Daniel Cunningham ‘17 (Vocal Performance) overcome severe anxiety and depression because it served as a vital escape.

“I was addicted to a lot of bad things, but now I’m not anymore and it started with music,” Cunningham said. He began to think about the difference that art can do for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

On Nov. 15, Cunningham and the CSUN community held a free event called “HeART Heals Lives in Las Vegas” to raise funds for the Las Vegas Victim and National Compassion Fund. The event was held at the Matador Square and featured CSUN acapella group Vocal Percussion Radio (VPR) and a variety of opera, guitar and piano performances.

Attendees were also given the chance to donate paintings for the fundraiser, which Cunningham said was then sold and the proceeds donated to the charity.

Immediately after the Las Vegas tragedy, Cunningham wanted to pitch in and help the victims. “HeART Heals LIves in Las Vegas” raised funds for victims, while also giving CSUN’s talented artists an outlet to showcase their work.

“My goal for putting on this event was not only to make funds to support those affected by the Las Vegas shooting, but to bring awareness to how art is a beautiful way to heal the world,” Cunningham said.

Performing at the event was an enriching experience for VPR vocalist and CSUN graduate student Brian Jones, who mentioned that this was the group’s first performance of the year.

“I was at a different school as an undergraduate and don’t remember ever having any charity events like this and certainly never anything that involved the arts,” Jones said. “It’s great that we are using music as a way to help people.”

After hearing that many victims of the shooting are struggling to pay for their medical expenses, junior theatre major Elliot Mains knew he wanted to be a part of the event. He chose to sing and play the guitar to Radiohead’s “The Numbers.”

“It seems terrifying that if you get shot in this country, if the bullet doesn’t kill you the healthcare costs will,” Mains said. “The song I chose to perform talks about how we as humans have the power to change things in the world.”

While Cunningham acknowledged that no amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one, it can at least provide valuable support for the families that are still recovering.

“I know a lot of people who have been affected by gun crimes, so hopefully this event can bring full attention to the arts and how they can be used as an inspirational, motivational tool towards peace,” he said.

For more information on how to donate, visit the National Compassion Fund website.

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