All posts by Erik Holmgren

New Spending Plan Accelerates Efforts to Deepen and Widen Support for Creative Youth

Through continued investment in national model programs alongside grants for new and emerging organizations, Mass Cultural Council is supporting a generation of young people whose creativity and leadership will transform Massachusetts and its communities. Since 2015 we have nearly tripled our annual investment in these programs to just over $1.5 million to support creative youth development through a range of grants and initiatives.

This year we have expanded our grant recipient pool to 74 programs through YouthReach and SerHacer, and will continue to support Amplify, the META Fellowship, and Johnson String Project.

Creative youth development—both a movement and a community of practice—has earned this support: Massachusetts boasts more than 40 winners of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, the nation’s highest honor in this field. Last year these programs served more than 6,000 at-risk youth, and our goal is to reach 10,000 by 2020.

“Our young people are creative, full of potential, and eager to lead,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director. “We are committed to the idea that youth has something to say; they bring their voice and their vision to the conversations about how to make our Commonwealth a better place for everyone. Our support for creative youth development helps to ensure they will be heard.”

What does this support look like? Here are just a couple of examples:

  • In the Pioneer Valley a small program called The Art Garden is growing their work with young people from five counties in a former train station in Shelburne Falls.
  • Berkshire Pulse is providing youth development opportunities through dance to a high needs community in Housatonic.
  • Young people in Franklin created their own anti-bullying campaign last year.
  • In Boston, the Theater Offensive is continuing its award-winning work with LGBTQ youth in Boston.
  • And students from low-income families are developing a range of workforce skills through an apprenticeship program at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Read about the development of our Creative Youth work.

Check out our complete FY19 spending plan.

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.

In Conversation: Katie Wyatt and Dalouge Smith

Katie Wyatt and Dalouge Smith
We invited Katie Wyatt and Dalouge Smith to share a conversation around two different models of growing creative youth development programming at the city and state level.

Katie Wyatt is the Founder and Executive Director of KidzNotes and the Executive Director of El Sistema USA. Dalouge Smith is the President and CEO of the San Diego Youth Symphony and a national leader in crafting an inclusive future of music and education in and out of schools.

Their conversation provides insight into the challenges and successes of working with public schools to achieve community goals, the potential policy implications and challenges that are facing this work today, and the gap between rural and urban environments.  The recording is approximately 1 hour long and features a curated discussion by these two innovative leaders.

Hear the recording by selecting the player above, or read the transcript.

Johnson String Project

The Johnson String Project is dedicated to ensuring that all students in El Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts have access to high quality string instruments.  But this is more than a simple ‘donate an instrument’ program.  Instead, students are guaranteed a quality instrument that they can exchange as they grow and can have them maintained and repaired at no cost.

Hear more about the origins of the Johnson String Project from Carol Johnson on Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud.