Spotlight on Matt D’Arrigo ’95: Applause, ARTS, and the Academy Awards

Thu, 10/24/2013 - 11:30am
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The Spring Hill College family welcomed Matt D'Arrigo '95 back on campus Tuesday by filling the LeBlanc Ballroom to capacity for both screenings of the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Inocente.”

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and friends attended the two showings of the 40-minute film. D’Arrigo and Inocente Izucar, who is featured in the documentary, took time to chat with the audience and answer questions after receiving several standing ovations.

D’Arrigo, founder and CEO of San Diego-based ARTS (A Reason To Survive) was approached by filmmakers Sean and Andrea Fine, who wanted to create a documentary featuring a homeless teenage artist. After a year of searching the country, they came across an online article about ARTS and contacted D’Arrigo.

The non-profit ARTS center offers programs in visual arts, media, music, theater and dance for children, teenagers, and young adults experiencing life challenges which include homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, and terminal illness.

"We have numerous teenage artists we serve, but as (Sean and Andrea) explained the type of story they were looking for and type of teenager, Inocente popped into mind," D'Arrigo says. "Not only did she have an incredible story…but she was ready and willing to tell it."

The Fines began filming in fall 2009 and followed the teenager for a year and half. Inocente, who was 15 at the time, had been homeless for nine years. An undocumented immigrant, she and her two brothers lived with their alcoholic mother.

As the documentary depicts, Inocente's art is a bright contrast to her dark past. Her canvases explode with color; hearts, landscapes, animals and other creatures are embellished with jewels and buttons.

“Inocente” was placed on the short list for an Academy Award, and a few months later, nominated for an Oscar. The Fines, D'Arrigo, and Inocente attended the Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2013. The film took home the Oscar for "Best Documentary (Short Subject)."

"When they pulled Inocente's name out for the envelope, it was surreal," D'Arrigo says. "We all jumped and screamed - quickly followed by a lot of tears. To be in that theater with all these stars and seeing her up on that stage - there's not a word strong enough to describe how I was feeling. We all went to the Vanity Fair after-party and celebrated until the sun came up."


D’Arrigo, “Inocente” and the ARTS organization were featured this week in the San Diego Union-Tribune. For the full story, please visit:

For more on D’Arrigo, his SHC experience, and ARTS, read Lindsay Hughes’ article in the Spring Hill College Magazine online: