New Bedford Whaling Museum Named 2017 NAHYP Awardee

L_R Yamilex Ramus Peguero, Maria Cardoso, Christina Turner (Dir. Apprentices & Interns) with the NAHYP Award in Washington, D.C.Mass Cultural Council extends hearty congratulations to New Bedford Whaling Museum for receiving the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Award for their High School Apprenticeship Program. The High School Apprenticeship Program immerses students in skill-based humanities and interpretive sciences projects, mentorship, and valuable life skills instruction such as financial literacy, college preparation, public speaking, and audience engagement.

For almost two decades, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has presented the NAHYP Awards, the nation’s highest honor for out of school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. Presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts , National Endowment for the Humanities  and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the award recognizes outstanding Creative Youth Development (CYD) programs from all over the country from a range of urban and rural settings. (See all 2017 Awardees.)

The NAHYP Award showcases and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Programs are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.

To date, 51 students have graduated from the Museum’s High School Apprenticeship Program, 100% have graduated from high school and 94% pursued some form of post-secondary education. About 40% of alumni have returned to the museum as part-time employees, interns, volunteers, and guest speakers.

Out of a pool of over 350 NAHYP nominations nationwide, three Massachusetts programs were also recognized as finalists this year:

The achievements of these programs speak to the exemplary work in the field of CYD happening across the Commonwealth and a strong testament to all of those committed to working with youth to achieve social change through the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Longest Running Solely Youth-Led Film Festival Turns 20

This year marked the 20th anniversary of Community Art Center’s Do It Your Damn Self – the longest running solely youth-led film festival in the country.

The festival is a product of Community Art Center’s Teen Media Program. Established in 1970, the program continues to inspire and empower teen storytellers to move forward with self-assurance and dignity, living out the motto and mission of “if you want something done, you gotta ‘do it your damn self!’”

Mindful from RAW Art Works’ Real To Reel Program in Lynn, MA.

The festival  featured a diverse array of films with wide reaching subject matter. All the same, staying true to the original mission of the six founding teen members to, ‘make change in their communities’, themes of social justice served as a through line in multiple films.

The film #BlackLivesMatter knit together images of the harsh realities of police brutality cases in recent years and the social unrest that has given rise to protests. Similarly, hip hop music video Pain highlights a young African-American male’s perspective on police brutality. Reach, an experimental film, takes viewers inside the reality of just existing as a black person in modern day America while Fault Lines speaks to how students can easily slip through the cracks of the education system.

Reach from YouthFX in Albany, NY.

Issues of representation in the media were featured as well. The film Tokenized follows Maggie whose life is changed when she is cast as a token character in her white male best friend Spencer’s story. As Maggie adjusts to life in her new role in Spencer’s story, she becomes more aware of how the unjust “storyboard system” has negatively impacted not only her life but that of her fellow token allies. The film brilliantly ties in LGBTQ issues when a character cast as Spencer’s love interest shows interest in Maggie instead. Eventually, along with her new love interest and other ‘tokens’, Maggie confronts the system eventually flipping the script and gaining her due agency in the process.

Other films addressing media representation included The Seated Siren and Life Rolls On.

The films (narrative and documentary respectively) touch on what it’s like living with physical disabilities. In The Seated Siren, the heroine struggles with the dating pool being seen as an invalid rather than as a person with feelings. Life Rolls On highlights Danny whose life was forever changed after enduring a sports accident. The film emphasizes how Danny is actually not a victim and instead, consistently continues to conquer life and its obstacles each and every day.

By the Way, by St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Austin, TX

The festival also had its share of incredibly innovative storytelling. The film By The Way features a love story with a young couple who forms a bond over scribbling doodles on their shared desk. Finally, Mindful has a unique take on the issue of mental illness with a student personifying anxiety, depression, negativity and happiness and placing these characters into a police detective action narrative with a comedic twist.

All of the films in their own way offered an inside look at the humanity of a variety of hot topic issues that can often be difficult to fully understand when thought of at all. They were also a reminder of the arts’ power to connect people and create a space for discussion and ultimately understanding.

Congratulations to all 2017 winners.

META Fellowship Kicks-Off Year 2

Our Music Educators and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship Pilot Program is a two-year program focused on enhancing the quality of music teaching and learning in school and community based organizations throughout Massachusetts.  Through work with nearly 50 Fellows from more than 30 schools and non-profits,  this program provides four learning sessions per year, site visits, grants, and stipends for participating.  Year One brought a rich set of learning experiences to both the Fellows and the Mass Cultural Council.

META Fellows (Top (l-r): Nick Tetrault and Carol Cubberley; Bottom (l-r): Taide Prieto and Adam Sickler)

What we learned in Year One:

  • Fellows recognized one another as the most valuable assets in developing their practice and impact as Music Educators and Teaching Artists.
  • Fellows want more time to learn from one another.
  • There were two main topics the group identified as useful to explore in Year Two: Child Development/Psychology and Cultural Competence.

In Year Two, we have decided build on the greatest asset of the Fellowship and the one that will endure beyond the pilot program – the Fellows. We will continue building the Fellowship around the assets of the group, host a session with the Silk Road Ensemble around cultural competency and another session to focus on child and cognitive development. Year Two will culminate in a showcase and convening for Fellows, other educators in their schools and organizations, principals, executive and artistic directors, and higher education institutions on April 4, 2018.

Nano-Interview with Bithyah Israel of City Strings United

BITHYAH ISRAELName: Bithyah Israel
Organization: City Strings United
Title: Founder and Executive Director
Music Genre: Cello! Varied styles
Years in the Field: 20

What do you do at City Strings United?
At City Strings United (CSU) I run all operations from recruiting teachers and students, teaching classes, replacing instruments, recruiting volunteers, and donor relations.

Why do you do what you do?
I do this work because when I was a child, I received free cello lessons, since my family could not afford them. A symphony cellist took it upon himself to do this, which gave me opportunities to perform in youth and civic orchestras. That experience lifted my heart and made my spirit soar. I want more children to experience such overwhelming joy. Having been blessed with such support growing up, I had hope even during trying times. I wish the same for today’s children.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest part of this work is dealing with children.  They show that they feel valued and they reciprocate. Kids are just fun. One day, as I was rushing down the aisle of the church we teach out of, probably to locate rosin or a cello pin holder for a student, I heard a little voice: “Lady, lady!” a high-pitched voice said. I noticed a 3-year old little girl looking up at me. She had been observing our cello class – probably a student’s little cousin. I stopped in my tracks. She looked up at me and confidently said, “I need a violin.” This took the cake. She saw that all the other children there had an instrument, and she knew she deserved one, too. Moments like that refresh me and push me forward, reiterating to me the vision for which I strive.

What challenges you in this work?
What challenges me is operating amidst a lack of adequate financial support for our grassroots organization. I must work long hours freelancing, so that I can pay my bills in addition to running CSU. I have many projects within CSU just waiting to be completed, when funds provide a staffer’s hours to do them. It’s scary every year when our resources become scarce, and grant applications, on top of all else I’m doing for the kids, are time consuming and not promised. Every year, I find I am able to accomplish more and more – this year, 4 grant apps have gone out…improving!!

What does it mean to do this work in this community?
The community tells me we give them hope, and that our program is providing our students a great platform. In the five years we’ve been running, we’ve appeared in The Boston Globe twice, on New England Cable News, at the Museum of Fine Arts, and been invited to collaborate in shared performances with a Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble and Celebrity Series of Boston. We’ve also performed with a Grammy-awarded drummer Terri Lynn Carrington and saxophonist Walter Beasley. So, the community is inspired with the great accomplishments and recognition our students have received in a relatively short amount of time. I have countless inspiring stories.

How do you blow off steam?
Let’s see… I talk it out with my friends or executive coach, drive to the beach, watch a movie, say a prayer, listen to gospel music, play my cello, laugh, exercise, and just take a nap (it took me 2-3 years to understand part of survival is to just STOP and REST.)

What do you create in your free time?
I enjoy writing music, cooking, and reaching out to loved ones and also community members who have been exceptionally supportive. I also like telling about my experiences or self in a comedic way, making others laugh. I get pleasure out of making others chuckle, even at my own expense. Being transparent seems to have a cathartic effect on others.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I listen to gospel, jazz, classical, pop (I have a ‘Road Tripping’ station on Pandora) and classic rock “Dream On…”

Seen any good movies lately?
I recently saw Hidden Figures. Once again, I am inspired by stories of triumph despite initial conditions of little support or appreciation. Integrity always wins.

What are you currently reading?
The autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

What’s next?
Hopefully succeeding in fulfilling our modest $50,000/year budget, then heading to the $100,000 level.

Besides writing music for CSU students to perform, I’ve begun writing music and acting in theatrical productions, usually historical plays. I hope to continue building my professional composing portfolio.

Cape Youth Reaching Forward

In the spring, Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) celebrated the Art on the Edge and Reaching Forward’s exhibition opening.

Art on the Edge (AOTE), a free studio program taught by professional artists to support the development of local artists ages 11-14, offers semester-long studio classes including art history presentations, opportunities to create individual and collaborative works of art, and exhibitions in the Museum School and galleries of PAAM. Students work with professional teaching artists and explore a variety of media, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, animation, and drawing.

The Reaching Forward Student Mentor Program (launched to dovetail with AOTE) provides professional development in the arts for 17-22 year olds. Student mentors learn from contemporary artists, develop leadership skills, deepen their own art practices, and serve as role models for their younger peers in the AOTE program. Many of the mentors have been AOTE students themselves and have also participated in Mass Cultural Council’s YouthReach funded program Art Reach, a free multidisciplinary afternoon immersion program for arts and humanities education offered to high school and college aged students.

This year’s exhibit included a variety of work including shadowboxes, plein air painting, and prints from plates:

Shadowboxes

Students learned about the ways artists create the illusion of depth by playing with scale and repetition in forms, perspective and color.

Provincetown Art Association and Museum's "Shadowboxes" Art on the Edge Exhibition

Plein Air Painting

Like French Impressionist painters of the 19th Century, students drew and painted outdoors, studied color relationships in natural light and used watercolors to sketch the bay at St. Mary’s of the Harbor.

Provincetown Art Association and Museum's "Plein Air" Art on the Edge Exhibition

Prints from Plates

Inspired by the maritime wood carving work of Clare Leighton, students worked directly from 12 original New England industries prints from PAAM’s collection. Students also went onto create their own plates.

Provincetown Art Association and Museum's "From Prints to Plates" Art on the Edge Exhibition

“I love the satisfaction of creating something and it being better than I thought I could do. And so, art is a good way for me to combine creative thought and process with my drive to constantly do better. Art Reach has given me a good opportunity to apply my skills and desires to practice and improve, by giving me new projects and art mediums that challenge what I know and what I can do.” – Nathan Balk King

“Each week, I’m excited to come back and work with friends. Regardless of whether we’re working together on a project, or just enjoying each other’s company. [PAAM’s] fantastic programs push me to be myself rather than someone I’m not.” – Keith Taylor

Hannah Capra with her collage. Photo: Art Reach at PAAM

Hannah Capra, a 16 year old from Marstons Mills currently in her junior year at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, has blossomed from middle-school novice to practicing artist and a mentor to her younger peers.

“I have been making work at PAAM for 5 years now, and I have learned and grown here so much more than I ever thought I could. There is nothing better than taking negative emotion and turning it into something really beautiful. The feeling of putting so much of myself into my work, in attempt to help myself cope – and maybe help others – is my purpose,” she said.

Over the summer, Hannah’s work was featured in Shirl Roccapriore’s annual Youth Artist Program Exhibition at the Oils by the Sea Gallery in Provincetown which celebrates local talent and also serves as a fundraiser for Art Reach.

The value and rigor of PAAM’s programs are incredibly clear not only with beautiful work at an exhibition, but also through the meaningful relationships and growth students experience.

A New Vision and Strategic Plan

The Mass Cultural Council is pleased to share its new strategic plan and new vision — the Power of Culture — with the public. The plan is grounded on a vision of our Commonwealth where:

  • Culture elevates the quality of life and well-being of all communities
  • Culture drives growth and opportunity through the creative economy
  • Culture is inclusive, accessible, and embraces our diversity
  • Culture empowers a new generation through creative youth development and education

The result of more than a year of planning and thousands of conversations with our constituents, our new vision will guide our work through the next five years and beyond.

Mass Cultural Council Spending Plan Includes $2.2M for Creative Youth

This week the Mass Cultural Council released a spending plan for the new fiscal year that will invest more than $12 million in programs and initiatives that drive economic growth and opportunity, elevate the quality of life in communities, embrace accessibility and inclusion, and empower a new generation through education and creative youth development.

Included in the spending plan is $2.2 million for Creative Youth Development & Education. With this investment Mass Cultural Council will work to expand access to quality, creative learning experiences for young people in school and community settings through:

  • YouthReach, which supports nonprofit organizations that provide in-depth arts, humanities, and science programs for young people at risk. See FY18 funding list.
  • SerHacer, supporting intensive, ensemble-based programs that use music as a vehicle for youth development and social change. Through grants and technical assistance, Mass Cultural Council fosters this emerging field of music education across the Commonwealth. See FY18 funding list.
  • STARS Residencies connect artists and creative educators in the humanities and sciences with elementary and secondary schools with deep learning experiences that help students grow, develop new skills, and expand their imaginations.
  • Big Yellow School Bus grants help schools meet the transportation costs of educational field trips to cultural institutions across Massachusetts.
  • Poetry Out Loud, a national competition in which high school students perform classic and contemporary poems while exploring elements of slam poetry, spoken word, and theatre in their English and drama classes. The Huntington Theatre Co. has expanded Poetry Out Loud to more than 50,000 Massachusetts students each school year. It is funded with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Creative Youth Development

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