Last month, members of the Silk Road Ensemble, Cristina Pato and Ko Umezaki, and Steve Seidel, Director of the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, led our META Fellows in a session on exploring cultural competency. Cristina and Ko opened the session with a piece performed on the gaita and shakuhachi:
Mass Cultural Council invites you to join us for a reception to celebrate Amplify, a grant program that invests directly in young people whose leadership and creative expression is driving social change in communities across the Commonwealth.
The event will take place on Thursday, May 3 at 4pm at the Massachusetts State House, Room 350. We will be joined by State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, other legislators, education and cultural nonprofit leaders.
Amplify grants support work by young people in the arts, sciences, or humanities that demonstrates their capacity to use creative expression to develop safe and thriving neighborhoods and communities.
Last week, art by Boston-area teens premiered at numerous MBTA stations.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation, these innovative video works share the creative voices of young people in Boston.
“The ICA’s award-winning teen arts program serves 1000s of young people every year, creating informed future artists, leaders, citizens, and audiences,” said ICA Charlotte Wagner Director of Education Monica Garza. “This partnership with the MBTA presented an exciting opportunity to share their creative voices with a larger Boston community.”
Three Teen Arts Program members—Mithsuca Berry of Revere, Gabe S. of Boston, and Sydney A. Bobb of Boston—proposed and created short videos around the collaborative themes: “whimsy,” “love letter to Boston,” and “peace and quiet.”
Berry’s video Shades of the City makes use of hand-drawn stop-motion animation and tells the story of a woman of color who falls asleep on the train and dreams about painting the city of Boston in her likeness.
Bobb’s work Fraternal Eclipse tells the stories of three passengers whose lives intersect for a brief moment on public transportation, leaving them with deeper thoughts than they had expected.
S.’s work A Walk in the Park pays tribute to the beauty of Boston through a series of timelapse videos capturing moments of life throughout Boston Common, from the statehouse to the frog pond.
“In addition to providing critical customer-focused information, the T’s new digital network is providing a canvas to highlight excellent creative work from local teens, ” said MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Ramírez.
Meet Andrine Pierresaint, a longtime Books of Hope youth leader and a 15-year-old force to be reckoned with.
In her mid-teens, Andrine is not only an award-winning poet and performer, but also a published author who facilitates a weekly series of creative writing workshops for a group of pre-teens at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville, MA.
For Andrine, poetry has been an outlet for processing challenging emotions in a constructive way as well as a bridge to new worlds, connecting her to a community of mentors and young people from all walks of life.
“I have other people that I know that, like, if I want to talk about something I can talk to them about it, but the first person I’m going to think about to talk about poetry and what happened in an event and how I’m feeling about a poem, is Erich. He brought me to Louder Than A Bomb, and it was like a whole new world,” Andrine reflects.
Erich Haygun is the Program Director at Books of Hope (BOH), created in 1990 by Anika Nailah as a creative outlet for young people in and around the Mystic Learning Center. Specializing in poetry, BOH provides opportunities for young people to develop and refine their creative writing skills through peer mentorship.
Locally, BOH features their youth leaders at Boston Public Library’s Teen Central in Back Bay from 3-5pm the last Friday of every month. Additionally, BOH hosts “BEEN OUT HERE,” an all-ages open-mic and workshop every second Wednesday from 6-9pm at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, in collaboration with The Center for Teen Empowerment. BOH also prepares a team of young people to compete in the annual statewide Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Slam. In her time at Books of Hope, Andrine has participated in the competition multiple times.
“Isn’t poetry the fuel that pulls you out of bed? Something you do by yourself, for yourself, for your team, for your family, with your dreams, despite money, despite anxiety? Isn’t poetry something you do with your heaviest heart, with your last breath, with your whole life?”
Profoundly supportive of young people, BOH also offers paid fellowships to participants who demonstrate a commitment to their craft and are dedicated to sharpening their skills. Through these fellowships, young people have access to writing workshops, publication and performance opportunities, professional development as well as peer-mentoring training. Young people learn skills to explore their creative paths while also gaining technical assistance and financial rewards for their hard work.
Andrine’s first book entitled Even Pears Speak to Me features a collection of poems that address race issues, fat-phobia, mental abuse, neglect and its lasting effects. Her poetry also explores familial relationships and the power of learning to love yourself.
More on Andrine’s journey:
Video by Alexandra Wimley and Breana Stephen.
Photos by Alexandra Wimley.
Name: Pedro Cruz
Organization: IBA (Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion)
Title: Youth Arts Program Coordinator
Artistic Genre: Photography/Poetry
Years in the Field: 11
What do you do at IBA?
I am currently the Youth Arts Program Coordinator for IBA’s Youth Development Team. This means I work with teens on a daily basis throughout the school and summer cycle. According to my job description my duties are to design art based curriculum that introduces the idea of social justice, as well as help the youth express their own views and concerns through art. But anyone in this field knows it’s more than that. If you ask me, my number one job is to build strong, long lasting relationships with my youth. The type of relationships that save lives.
Why do you do what you do?
I was born and raised in what I like to call a concrete jungle. It’s easy to be overlooked or judged when you’re a young minority from a community that suffers from poverty, turf wars and gentrification. I remember while growing up the only safe space I had was the local community center and teen spaces. I will never forget the impact those places had on me. I guess now I just want to be who I wish I had when I was younger.
What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest thing for me about this job is connecting with the youth. There is no science to it. I just do it. I was born and raised in the same streets they are navigating today. I know their struggles, their challenges and their desires. I know what they have to go through on a daily basis. I know how it feels to leave your neighborhood and feel as if you’re crossing into enemy territory. I know how it is to stay out of trouble but still be considered part of the problem just because of where you live or who you hang out with. These things can’t be thought. They must be lived.
What challenges you in this work?
The one thing that challenges me most is not being able to serve every youth that I come across. Sometimes it’s because of limited space or funding, but it hurts me to meet a youth and not be able to serve them the way they need to be served. Some youth require a lot more attention than others do, and that is not something easy to live with. In this job you need to know when to ask for help, and asking for help wasn’t something I did a lot of growing up.
What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
The beauty of all of this is that I currently work for the same Creative Youth Development Program I attended when I was a teenager. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in my community and serve children I literally saw grow up around me. At this point, I can only speak from what I been told and I like to think that it means a lot to my community to see me doing this type of work. There has been many cases where parents feel a lot more comfortable allowing their kids to participate once they know it’s me who’s running the workshop or activity. That has to count for something.
How do you blow off steam?
Believe it or not, I go for walks around the city. No destination in mind. I just leave my house and wander around. There’s something about this process that I find therapeutic. I let my spirit guide me as I am studying people, soaking in the sounds and just watching an entire city live around me.
What do you create in your free time?
Easy- photographs and poems.
What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I must admit, I am possibly the biggest Blackbear fan in Boston. I love his music because it’s real. There’s no filter or sugarcoating to it. It is what it is. I like to think my art is the same way.
The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Building New Rome”
That’s always a good question to think about. Truthfully, I am currently working on a poetry book and building my photography brand. I just want to continue building my name as an artist and youth worker in the Boston area.
Those who believe in the power of music in the lives of children lost a vital voice this week with the death of Maestro José Antonio Abreu. We mark the passing of this visionary, who inspired not only our commitment to his El Sistema model of music education, but to our broader investment in exceptional creative youth development programs serving kids across the Commonwealth.
It may seem odd that the work Maestro Abreu began more than four decades ago in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Caracas, Venezuela, has taken hold so firmly here in Massachusetts, a global education leader. The sad reality, though, is that too many of our own children in poor communities and neighborhoods are denied the joy and inspiration that comes from learning music in the company of excellent teachers and artists.
That is why Mass Cultural Council became of the first public funder of El Sistema-inspired work in the United States. It’s why one of us traveled twice to Venezuela to study this education model in real time, and why the other—a student, friend, and mentee of the Maestro Abreu—relocated from Venezuela to nurture the seeds of El Sistema work here in Massachusetts. We now invest in 18 SerHacer music programs that engage young people in music, and another 60 creative youth development programs that do the same work through other disciplines. In 2014 the Boston Globe wrote that “SerHacer is a model not only for music education, or even arts education, but of an approach to weave underserved kids more tightly into the social fabric and have a lasting impact on everything from educational achievement to future career paths.” And last year, we received further affirmation with the first US grant from a Foundation begun by another Abreu protégé, Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra.
“We hasten towards the encounter with music, not only in concert halls, but in people and things of everyday living, against the perfidious use of leisure, against drugs and violence, promoting at the same time the access of the least fortunate towards aesthetical formation and the life of arts,” Maestro Abreu once wrote. “Material poverty will be ultimately defeated by the sublime wealth that spawns from and within music. Social justice and cultural justice constitute two halves of a single, indivisible dimension…”
That clarion call for art to serve our highest aspirations as a culture rings as true today in Boston, Holyoke, and Lawrence, as it did in Caracas in 1975.
Maestro Abreu has transformed the lives of millions of young people around the world through the power of music. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and the countless artists he has inspired, and take comfort knowing that his legacy lives on in Massachusetts and around the world.
Creative Youth Development Program Manager
The Klarman Family Foundation and Mass Cultural Council invite you to the Final Showcase of the Music Educator and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship Program Pilot on Wednesday, April 4. Over the past two years, 46 Fellows from more than 30 schools and non-profit organizations throughout Massachusetts have come together to build a community of practice to enhance the impact of music programs on young people.
At this culminating Showcase, Fellows will share tools and knowledge they have developed to address key challenges and opportunities in the field of music education. These projects build on the group learning the Fellows have done through formal sessions, site visits, and artistic/professional development grants.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 4, 4-6PM
WHERE: Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston
WHO: Teaching artists and music educators, higher education leaders, other key stakeholders involved in youth music training or at local music institutions
- 4-5pm: Reception, Poster Sessions, musical performances by youth
- 5-6pm: Speaking program
Please RSVP and share this invitation with other educators in your community.
Youth voice is essential to creative youth development. We’re asking youth leaders to speak to the power of culture as active agents in their own growth:
At BCC music is a catalyst to create social change. BCC Artistic Director Dr. Anthony Trecek-King recounts how kids from over 120 different zip codes come to the Chorus to learn about music, and are also given time to discuss and learn about their differences and how they can work together to become a more creative and cohesive community.