Seen and Heard | Creative Youth Development

Mass Creates 1st State Program to Support El Sistema Music Education

Last week, a crowd of nearly three hundred joined us at Artist for Humanity’s EpiCenter as we announced the launch of SerHacer, MCC’s newest grant program supporting creative youth development. SerHacer (To Make, To Be) will provide pilot grants, instruments, and technical support to the following youth music programs across Massachusetts:

  •  Berkshire Children and Families, a social service agency based in Pittsfield. Its Kids 4 Harmony program meets after school each day at Morningside Community School.
  • El Sistema at Conservatory Lab, a Dorchester charter school that provides extended day learning that includes 15 hours of music each week.
  • Bridge Boston Charter School, founded just three years ago and growing one grade per year at which every student makes music every day.
  • Worcester Chamber Music Society, operates an afterschool program known as Neighborhood Strings in Worcester.
  • Josiah Quincy School Orchestra Program, a Boston Public School, which offers an hour and a half of music, before and during the school day.
  • MusiConnects in Mattapan, home of the Boston Public Quartet, which works afterschool with students who would not otherwise have access to music education.
  • El Sistema Somerville, an afterschool program at the East Somerville Community School that is also supported by city government.
  • Also three organizations will receive planning grants to explore new programming: Cape Conservatory in Hyannis; Boston Conservatory, which is working to develop a choral program for young people on the autistic spectrum; and Berkshire Children and Families, which will expand its work to North Adams next year.

State Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg congratulated our grantees, and called SerHacer “another innovation for Massachusetts that will help our young people lead more active civic lives and discover their own potential.” Picking up on this thread, Robert Lynch, CEO at Americans for the Arts underscored the value of the arts, saying that, “kids today need the arts. They need the arts for better living, better academics and test scores, and for better coping with all of life’s challenges.”

To better understand the connections between musical studies and essential learning skills, SerHacer will also fund new research led by Ellen Winner and Sara Cordes at Boston College. Building upon a base of similar studies that have enhanced our understanding of the role of arts in youth development, this study will examine the strengthening of skills such as focus, planning, and problem-solving—skills that are crucial to success in and out of school.

See the Full Press Release.

Progress Report: Collective Action for Creative Youth Development

policy plank working group at National Summit on Creative Youth Development

The growing, national collective action around the emerging field of creative youth development continued last week at the National Guild for Community Arts Education’s conference.

Local and national partners reflected on the ways in which we can each support youth-centered programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities while also building capacity as a field—an imperative from the National Summit on Creative Youth Development hosted by MCC earlier this year.

As we tackled questions such as How might we capitalize on the strengths of individual leaders and programs, and How might joint efforts better serve youth?, the Guild’s Executive Director Jonathan Herman reminded us of the many creative youth development accomplishments that have unfolded this year:

We’d like to hear from you: What are some accomplishments from your creative youth development work in 2014?

Project STEP: 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Winner

First Lady Michelle Obama with Project STEP student Ajani BoydEarlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama presented Project STEP (String Training and Education Program) student Ajani Boyd and Executive Director Mary Jaffee the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP ) Award on behalf of the entire Project STEP community.

Project STEP received the award for its rigorous, comprehensive, year-round classical string training program for underrepresented minorities. The NAHYP Award recognizes the country’s 12 best creative youth development programs for using engagement in the arts and the humanities to increase academic achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. The awardees—chosen from a national pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists—are also recognized for improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness.

First presented in 1998, the NAHYP Award is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The awards are presented annually in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

From the NAHYP web site:

Project STEP seeks to increase diversity in professional classical music by tooling students, primarily from underrepresented groups, to compete and excel in that realm. So, nearly every Saturday during the school year, Project STEP brings several dozen students, mostly Black and Latino, to Boston’s august Symphony Hall. Toting violins, violas, cellos, and double basses, these students have arrived for lessons with some of the best classical musicians in the Boston area. Throughout this extraordinary 12-year-long program, these young musicians will receive what has been called a “world-class arts learning opportunity,” one designed to change the course of these young people’s lives, while changing the classical music industry.

Who You Gonna Call?

The middle-school aged filmmakers in Raw Art Works‘ Real to Reel program have created a fantastic, shot-for-shot, gender-reversed remake of the trailer for Ghostbusters (1984):

“They made their costumes by hand. Everything you see is 100 percent them,” said Chris Gaines, director of the Real to Reel Film School in Lynn, MA.

A full write-up about this project also appeared in Yahoo Movies.

Join MCC to Launch New Youth Music Program & Film on El Sistema

Please join the Massachusetts Cultural Council at 3pm on Monday, December 1st at Artists for Humanity EpiCenter for an exciting event to launch our new creative youth development initiative and celebrate the ongoing work of our sector’s role in helping young people achieve their full potential.

The event will feature the launch of MCC’s new music initiative, SerHacer, and will feature the sneak preview of a powerful new documentary film about El Sistema in the United States. The film’s director, Jamie Bernstein, will join us to discuss the documentary, and how it continues the work of her father, the legendary Leonard Bernstein, to bring the power and joy of music to young people.

Building upon MCC’s nationally renowned YouthReach Initiative, SerHacer (To Be, To Make) is the first public program in the U.S. to support work inspired by El Sistema. Begun in Venezuela and now in dozens of countries worldwide, the El Sistema model supports ensemble music making to help children improve academic performance and develop valuable leadership skills that carry over to school, work, and life. Through grants, technical support, and services to schools and afterschool music programs, MCC will welcome our new grantees into an exciting national conversation around creative youth development.

We will also be joined by a group of state and national leaders in the arts and arts education: Bob Lynch, CEO, Americans for the Arts; Jonathan Herman, Executive Director, National Guild for Community Arts Education; Traci Slater-Rigaud, Director, National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards; Matt Wilson, Executive Director, MASSCreative; Susan Rodgerson, Executive Director, Artists for Humanity; state and local elected officials; leaders and young people from YouthReach programs & other education partners in the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Please RSVP by Friday, November 21st.

AFTA’s Latest Blog Salon Focuses on Creative Youth Development

artsednetwork
In conjunction with National Arts Education week this week, Americans for the Arts (AFTA) is hosting a weeklong blog salon dedicated to exploring important next steps for the emerging creative youth development sector. Throughout the week AFTA’s Arts Education blog will highlight issues related to research, programming, evaluation, funding, and advocacy, and will explore the insights and puzzles presented from leading voices in the field. MCC’s own Erik Holmgren kicked off the series by making the case for investing in creative youth development and articulated a number of the tangible benefits — educational, social, and economic—that derive from investing in youth through the work of this sector.

Follow the conversation throughout the week and contribute your thoughts via AFTA’s blog or on Twitter (using the hashtag #creativeyouthdevelopment). Happy National Arts Education week!

Massachusetts Programs Continue to Shine

PCAH Awards Logo Fifty organizations from across the country have just been recognized as 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalists by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and its cultural partners – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services –for their work in providing excellent out-of-school arts and humanities learning opportunities to young people.

Congratulations to the three Massachusetts programs included in the list:

The 10 winners, selected from this list of 50, are expected to be announced at a White House ceremony some time this fall.

Access to Opportunities

Donna Folan Artistic Director, Until Tomorrow Productions and artistic creator of Access to TheatreAs the YouthReach Initiative winds up its 20th anniversary, Seen & Heard asked Donna Folan, cofounder of Access to Theatre, a program of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, to reflect on the impact of the state’s investment and her aspirations for the initiative going forward.

For 20 years, Access to Theater (ATT) has provided young people with fully accessible afterschool workshops, summer institutes, one-to-one mentor pairings, peer leadership opportunities, and countless performances for the Boston area community. ATT has also provided opportunities to work with artists with and without disabilities as mentors and collaborators. YouthReach was ATT’s first and only consistent annual funder for those 20 years. It is hard to image the program’s long success without this consistent support.

YouthReach serves as the strongest model of how to create and support youth-driven programming. The initiative has supported innumerable opportunities for young people to discover personal expression, and has challenged its grantees to maintain the highest standards of excellence in programming. At the same time, the program has been responsive to adapting to the needs of its grantees. YouthReach funding has helped to build a community of practice among a diverse set of programs across the state. As a result, organizations have been able to develop programs that are safe and nurturing environments for the people they serve. In many cases I believe YouthReach has saved lives with their support of these safe-havens for vulnerable young people.

In the 20 years to come, it is my hope that arts and cultural programs receive the true respect they deserve. I encourage the MCC to help YouthReach-funded organizations continue to develop a deeper understanding of physical and programmatic accessibility and how it can be integrated into each individual program.

YouthReach programs have produced many talented and knowledgeable emerging artists. It is important now to have places for these young artists to rehearse and collaborate as they take the lessons learned to the next level. Our communities and society will ultimately benefit from the advancement of these experienced artists, thanks to YouthReach and their partners past, present, and future.

Donna Folan is the Artistic Director of Until Tomorrow Productions. She was cofounder and Artistic Director of Access to Theatre, a program of Partners for Youth with Disabilities, which provides young people with disabilities and those without disabilities the opportunity to come together to create original theater and other forms of art that reflect their individual and collective viewpoints.

Full Circle

Representative Sarah Peake, Lynn Stanley, and Arts Foundation of Cape Cod Executive Director Kevin HowardRecently, Lynn Stanley, Curator of Education at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, was named Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. Following are her remarks upon receiving the award.

Picture it: I am five and drawing a picture in my kindergarten class. Lacking the color pink, I put a layer of red crayon down, then find a piece of white chalk and apply that on top. As it turns out, I’ve taken Miss Roger’s chalk. Worse, the red crayon has stained the chalk. I’m afraid that if she finds out, I’ll be in big trouble. Instead, when she sees what I’ve done, she is delighted that I know how to mix colors. Thus I become aware that I know something that not everyone else knows—and instead of punishment I’ve been seen and understood.

When considering the roles that art and education have played in my own life, what comes to mind is this 50-year-old memory—one of the first I can associate with being valued in the world as a creative being. I could say that it is because I work with children, teens, and young adults as an administrator and teacher at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum that the connection to that 5-year-old me continues to be alive and present in me today. But really, I think it’s the other way around—that feeling of being valued as a creative young person is at the foundation of my life as an educator. I doubt that Miss Rogers knew the importance of her actions that day.

Fast forward ten years. I’m 15 and as a teenager I’ve experienced things I can’t yet put language to. Instead, I engage in all kinds of risky behavior—I skip school, take drugs, hitchhike, and run away from home. As my grades take a nosedive and my parents struggle to understand what has become of their once comprehensible daughter, art remains a place where I can make meaning, find meaning, and be valued. Art has become a way of being and a lifeline for me.

I don’t know what the fifteen year old I was would think if she could see your recognition of my efforts today. But I can guess that there would be a few school officials—the administrators who hauled me into the office for any number of offences or sentenced me to what we called the “rubber room” during school suspensions, and the teachers who tried to reach me and failed—yes, I’m guessing there would be a few who would be shocked that I survived my youth and have actually joined their ranks.

So I stand here before you today as a reminder to every hard-working educator and arts administrator that you can not possibly know all the good you do or the changes you enact in the lives of the young people you work with. Some of your work will not bear fruit for many years. But I’m living proof that your efforts—along with the love and compassion that fuels them—bring about change that is real and infinitely good.

Twelve years ago I joined the staff of PAAM. Some of you have heard me say that when I started working on out-of-school youth programs I had no idea what I was doing. This is not false modesty. However, what I lacked in knowledge I made up for in the desire to provide a safe, accessible, creative environment for all kinds of kids. I was lucky–very lucky–to find myself in the right place at the right time, among colleagues and leaders who supported my efforts. I thank the very gifted artists who have made PAAM’s programs exemplary. My parents for their love, and for my mother’s example that one never stops learning. My partner Tracey Anderson—whose brilliance illuminates every aspect of my work as an artist, an educator, and a human being. Chris McCarthy for her courage and her far-reaching vision—thanks to you we have a beautiful museum and museum school that youth can grow and flourish in—may it continue for another 100 years. I thank the Massachusetts Cultural Council—I doubt that PAAM’s youth programs would have gotten off the ground without the support I received from the MCC—and I’m not just talking about financial support—every step of the way. I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever given a cent to support arts education—your money is well spent and an investment in the best of all possible worlds. Representative Sarah Peake and Senator Dan Wolf for their commitment to the arts. Kevin Howard and the staff of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.

Finally I want to thank the young people in our lives who take the biggest risks, the most courageous risks, when they forge into the unknown and make something new.

Work from PAAM’s ArtReach program will be on view in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House May 12-16. Join Lynn, the young artists, and others for a reception May 14, 3:30-5:00 PM to help advance Collective Action for Youth: An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development – a dynamic new policy agenda created during the recent National Summit on Creative Youth Development.

Creative Youth Development