All posts by Dawn Heinen

Nano-Interview with Marquis Victor of Elevated Thought

Marquis Victor of Elevated ThoughtName: Marquis Victor
Organization: Elevated Thought
Title: President / Executive Director
Artistic Genres: Film, Poetry
Years in the Field: 7.5

What do you do at Elevated Thought?
I lead Elevated Thought’s vision, objectives, goals, and mission and facilitate many of our programs and workshops. Additionally, I’ve developed various art and social justice based curricula including our youth empowerment programs Creative. Community. Change. (C3) and Wall Speak.

Why do you do what you do?
Every year that passes affirms my passion for and desire to see art infused, social action education introduced in the city of Lawrence and cities like it. Studying the history of colonization, slavery, and immigration, I know generations upon generations of the poor and marginalized have suffered from a lack of education and opportunities to expand their creativity and imagination. This passion has given me the confidence to do my small part in providing tangible hope within the current educational climate and within the communities we serve.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Waking up everyday and never questioning what I do and its purpose.

What challenges you in this work?
For many high school youth who have never been asked to embrace and utilize their imagination, the process of creative discovery can be novel and, at times, utterly confounding. The majority of them have been creatively stunted in their schools and environment. Disillusioned by content that is far removed from their reality, their personal meaning is often defined largely by despair, escapism, self-aggrandizement, or base means of survival that develop in poverty-stricken areas. Opportunities afforded for the select few further marginalize the majority and deepen the dehumanization process. The dehumanization process begins early on and, for many of the youth we serve, takes place when their creative interests and imagination is demeaned and begins to deteriorate. Breaking down the barriers to creativity and reemphasizing their standing as creatively capable beings can be a long and arduous process.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
We believe, as do other organizations and individuals spearheading this recent insurgency of arts in the city of Lawrence, creativity and imagination are keys to progress and empowering the individual and larger community.

How do you blow off steam?
Basketball, watching films with my wife, reveling in family and fellowships.

What do you create in your free time?
Poetry, experimental films, and ways to make my 7-month-old laugh.

Whose work in the CYD field do you admire and why?
My mentor and good friend Dr. Lou Bernieri, Director of Andover Bread Loaf (ABL). ABL uses literacy to enable participants to release the power of their voice and their capacity for school and civic leadership. Elevated Thought has been greatly influenced by ABL, now working in Lawrence for almost 30 years.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
Movie soundtracks, chillwave, ambient, and synth beats.

What are you currently reading?
The Magic of JuJu by Kalamu ya Salaam.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
Inside the Outside of Self

More Elevated Thought:
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Announcing a New Investment in Creative Youth Development and Music Education

Community Music School of Springfield performs at the announcement of the Dudamel Foundation's investment in creative youth development in Massachusetts.The Mass Cultural Council is pleased to announce a $10,000 gift from the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation to deepen its support of creative youth development and music education.

Elected officials and cultural leaders from the Springfield region joined Mass Cultural Council and Springfield Public Schools students, teachers, and administrators at the Community Music School of Springfield today to announce the grant. The Schools’ partnership program, Sonido Música uses intensive, ensemble music to strengthen academic and social-emotional learning, and empowers a new generation of young people to work for social justice. Inspired by the Venezuelan El Sistema model, the program is funded through Mass Cultural Council’s SerHacer Program.

“Music and the arts are central to a complete education,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, who also serves as Chair of the School Committee. “The Community Music School brings together students and families of all backgrounds to learn and grow through music making. We’re delighted to be a showcase for the work that the Mass Cultural Council and the Dudamel Foundation support.”

Established by Venezuelan-born conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, the Gustavo Dudamel Foundation is dedicated to supporting the arts and music education as catalysts in promoting a more compassionate and just society. “Music is unique in its power to unite and inspire,” said Dudamel. “By playing and listening together, music teaches discipline, cooperation, and an appreciation for beauty that enriches lives and binds communities. I am very pleased to collaborate with the Mass Cultural Council in expanding opportunities for children from diverse communities to be empowered through music.”

The Foundation’s grant to Mass Cultural Council will supplement the state agency’s support of 18 El Sistema-inspired youth music ensembles across Massachusetts, and helped to underwrite a student performance supported by the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston this past Saturday. SerHacer provides three-year, $15,000 annual grants to each of these programs, provides an instrument library through the Johnson String Project so all youth have quality instruments, and funds a three-year research study that seeks to document the impact of the El Sistema model on the lives of young people.

Mass Cultural Council Program Manager Rodrigo Guerrero said the Dudamel grant is another sign that Massachusetts is leading the way in creative youth development, an intentional practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences, while developing core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. Creative youth development approaches young people as active agents in their own growth, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The overall goal is for culture to play a major role in supporting the growth of creative, productive, and independent citizens and thriving communities.

Read the Full Release.

4 Mass Programs Named Finalists for 2017 NAHYP Awards

Young people work on a photo shoot for Shakespeare Inside and Out, a program of Actors' Shakespeare Project, Somerville, MA.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 – are proud to recognize 50 outstanding programs in the field of Creative Youth Development across the country for their work in providing excellent arts and humanities learning opportunities to young people. From big cities to small towns, the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalists reflect the diversity of disciplines and settings of these exceptional creative youth development programs that are taking place from coast to coast.

Congratulations to the Massachusetts programs named as finalists for 2017:

Codman Academy Summer Shakespeare Institute
Huntington Theatre Company, Inc., Boston

New Bedford Whaling Museum High School Apprenticeship Program
Old Dartmouth Historical Society, New Bedford

RAISE (Responding to Art Involves Self Expression)
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown

Shakespeare Inside and Out
Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Somerville

Podcast: Empowering Youth to Fix the World Around Them

Priscilla Kane HellwegOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Priscilla Kane Hellweg, Executive Director of Enchanted Circle Theater.

Enchanted Circle Theater is a community-based arts organization in Holyoke, MA, that works with students, teachers, and social services – in the mental health field, in the foster care world, everywhere and anywhere – using theater arts as a dynamic teaching tool. Hellweg says they’re developing whole human beings, who can think creatively, act creatively, and solve problems creatively.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Nano-Interview with Marielisa Alvarez of Boston String Academy

Marielisa AlvarezName: Marielisa Alvarez
Organization: Boston String Academy
Title: Co-Director
Music Genre: Classical
Years in the Field: 15

What do you do at Boston String Academy?
I am Co-Director and Co-Founder of the organization along with my twin sister, Mariesther, and my friend and colleague Taide Prieto. I teach violin and viola in individual and group settings, and lead string ensembles for about 110 children ages 6 – 15 in three different sites around the city –  Chinatown, Allston, and Roxbury. Aside from my teaching duties, I also spend part of the day doing administrative work, class and event planning, fund-raising, marketing, etc.

Why do you do what you do?
I had the life changing experience of growing up in El Sistema in my home country of Venezuela and I would like many children to have similar experiences of growing and learning through music. I want to help them open their eyes to a world of possibilities and opportunities.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
I love what I am doing, and it comes very easy and natural to teach my students. I feel I can easily communicate and transmit my passion and excitement to them and they respond very well.

What challenges you in this work?
Not having enough time to do everything I would like to do. Finding resources to support  our vision and being able to offer this opportunity to many more children.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
Many children are having access to top quality classical music training that they otherwise would not be able to. The children are being exposed to sublime artistic impressions, they will become more sensitive, they will appreciate art, they will be able to interact and work well with others, they will be more confident and have the courage to reach higher in life, they will become well rounded human beings, and the best ambassadors and advocates for their families and communities.

How do you blow off steam?
Outdoor activities and dancing!

What do you create in your free time?
Tasty dishes

Seen any good movies lately?
Hidden Figures

What’s next?
Europe! Will be going to Finland this summer to the second phase of the amazing Colourstrings pedagogy workshop, and will visit some El Sistema-inspired programs in Europe as well.

Nano-Interview with Olga Marchenko of BalletRox

Olga MarchenkoName: Olga Marchenko
Organization: BalletRox
Title: Program Manager, Ballet Instructor
Artistic Genre: Dance
Years in the Field: 8

 

What do you do at BalletRox?
I am responsible for different aspects of BalletRox program, inclusive but not limited to curriculum design, student enrollment, student and program evaluation, production of recitals, and website development. As a ballet instructor I teach all levels ballet classes and choreograph for recitals and performances.

Why do you do what you do?
The mission of BalletRox organization is dear to my heart with its main objective to provide to expose Boston youth to dance and opportunities for mastery and performance, to which they would not otherwise have access, giving them discipline and a supportive community to succeed in life.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
Communication with students, especially our oldest group (12-18 years old). I believe in partnership between a student and a teacher, where I see myself more of an older friend, who knows just a bit more and likes to share her experiences with my younger friends. In turn, they know that there is a time for fun sometime but when there is a work to do they become professionals and work their hardest!

How do you blow off steam?
For me it is taking a simple walk in the park or forest on a sunny day does it. Having music on a background comes second to it. And of course, reading.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I’m an oldies person most of the time. Anything from Billie Holiday to the Beach Boys. At times however, could sway from hip hop to classical and somewhere in the middle with some lounge music.

What are you currently reading?
Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. A very inspirational autobiographical book about a person born without limbs, neither legs nor arms. Despite his physical limits he does not only lead a full life but encourages others to not give up hope in any circumstances.

Podcast: Youth Finding a Voice, Finding a Stage

Julie BoydOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Artistic Director Julie Boyd.

Through Barrington Stage Company’s creative youth development program, Playwright Mentoring Project, theatre is used as a catalyst to help under-served youth learn skills to aid them in developing positive self-images. Boyd speaks to the cathartic nature of this work and to how their programs in education and theatre-making interweave.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.