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Maria Shriver

My Project: Kevin Spacey

Image: Kevin Spacey teaches 20 actors at The Old Vic
Kevin Spacey teaches 20 actors at The Old Vic, on the stage set of Richard III, in London in 2011. The actors were selected by Steve Winter, program director for The Kevin Spacey Foundation, as part of a talent search called Richard's Rampage. The Kevin Spacey Foundation

No matter where he’s roamed in the acting realm -- from stage to screen to Netflix stream -- Kevin Spacey has found his way to great success. As an actor, producer, and during his ten year run as Artistic Director of the Old Vic theater in London, Spacey’s inventive instincts have served him well, and success spurred him to serve others.

In 2010, the two-time Academy Award winner established the Kevin Spacey Foundation with the mission of cultivating emerging artists in the performing arts and film.

Through a combination of grants, university scholarships, and learning initiatives, KSF supports the next generation of talent by helping them find their voice, hone their craft, and pursue their passion for the arts.

And on September 29th, Spacey will deploy his considerable singing chops to the benefit of his foundation, taking to the stage in Washington D.C to perform swing era favorites and Great American Songbook classics, all to the accompaniment of a full Big Band.

Here, the “House of Cards” star (he’s currently shooting season three), shares his thoughts on the necessity of arts and culture and explains why working with young artists has proved a remarkable, inspiring thing.

What motivated you to get involved in this work?

Jack Lemmon - who was my mentor - passed along his philosophy of "sending the elevator back down" and so I am continuing to do exactly that through the work of my Foundation.

What have you been most surprised to learn?

At how much arts and culture is necessary to peoples lives - that they are not a luxury item - but can and do improve the self-esteem, sense of collaboration and confidence of young people all over the world.

What do you most want people to know?

That the work we do is not just for those who end up going into the arts, but is an important step of learning how a young person can present themselves, with confidence and an ability to communicate.

Who or what has made the greatest impression on you during your involvement?

When I do workshops with these young emerging artists all over the world, I continue to be inspired by their commitment and willingness to be challenged; even when it might be new or scary. Watching the nickel drop - when these kids realize something about themselves they never knew is one of the most remarkable things you'll ever see.

What has been the hardest part of this work, or how has it most challenged you?

Encouraging leaders to spend the time, energy and resources to reclaim or build upon their own culture and not just farm in entertainment from the West. I encourage the notion of developing the talent in your own nation.

How has this work changed you?

I'm a better person as a result. And it keeps me in touch with my younger self, as I was the recipient of these kinds of programs when I was young.

What goal do you have for the next 12 months?

The Foundation's goals over the next year is to bring our program - HOME GROWN - to as many countries and states as we can. This is our scheme to nurture home grown talents throughout the world.

Tickets for the Sept 29 concert in D.C. are available at www.kevinspaceyfoundation.com

For more information and inspiration visit MariaShriver.com