All posts by Rodrigo Guerrero

Investing in Organizations to Pursue an Artistic Risk

Creative Youth Development is a dynamic field of practice, utilizing the resources of teaching artists and organizations to better serve its target audience. To do this effectively, programming and delivery is in constant evolution to further engagement and impact.

Inevitably, this dynamism makes it difficult for programs to fit certain funding models, leaving gaps that take far too long to be addressed.  On the other side, funders have very specific targets and models that need to be met for organizations to be eligible, which in turn might stunt the advancement of programs and their capacity to reach new audiences and all together experiment with their medium. To address this, Barr Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation shifted the paradigm by establishing an artistic risk fund with the purpose of providing risk capital for projects that would take organizations out of their comfort zones.  The fund supports projects that have the potential to change how organizations work.

To document the journey and impact of their seven funded projects, the two foundations commissioned a series of videos.  With  personal stories from teaching artists and program participants as well as leadership, these documentaries are evidence of how both sides of the equation, program and funder, can work and stimulate each other to find new avenues of impact and growth.

Announcing 2019 Amplify Grants

Groundwork Lawrence's Green Team at Den Rock Park Hike.Mass Cultural Council is proud to award 15 new Amplify grants for 2019 totaling $15,000. Directed to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding, Amplify furthers the Commonwealth’s investment in youth leadership and empowerment.

The Amplify grant process incorporates youth voice throughout, including the participation of young professionals and program alums in the panel review. This unique approach ensures that the Amplify program continues to strive not just for the highest quality and innovation in programming, but to naturally and actively incorporate youth leadership in its rightful role in cultural provision across the state of Massachusetts.

Congratulations to this year’s Amplify recipients:

Ballet Rox (Boston)
Women’s Empowerment through Dance: To choreograph and perform a dance piece about  women’s’ rights and empowerment. The project will use music made by female artists, who advocate for women’s rights, and performed at the Wake Up the Earth and Dance for World Community festivals.

Books of  Hope  (Somerville)
To host a series of writing and community organizing workshops for a group of teens at the Mystic Learning Center led by Youth Artist Andrine Pierresaint. This program will culminate with Andrine sharing her own insights as a youth artist and organizer, and guiding the teens as they plan, host, and perform their own original work in Book of Hope’s annual Somerville Youth Arts Festival in June 2019.

Boston City Singers (Boston)
Combatting Loneliness with a Gift of Song: To create a forum to discuss the “epidemic of loneliness”. Boston City Singer’s Tour Choir will host and videotape interactive sing-a-long social events and discussions with nursing home residents and staff in Dorchester, and utilize it to encourage the creation of positive communities to assist with suicide and addiction prevention (common results of loneliness).

Elevated Thought (Lawrence)
Immunity: To create a film documenting the stories of various Lawrence community members and their families who were directly affected by the September 2018 gas explosions. The film will capture in a non-exploitive manner the resilience of the community in the aftermath of extreme adversity.

Enchanted Circle Theater (Holyoke)
Heroes Youth Truth Performance Ensemble: To create and present a youth performance focused on raising awareness of out-of- home-care experiences and stories. This work will be presented at regional Massachusetts Department of Children & Families meetings, classes for potential foster parents, and legislators, as well as the general public.

Express Yourself (Beverly)
The Bee Project: To promote constructive conversation and to destigmatize mental health in youth by creating an exhibition of linoleum Bees. Besides the exhibition, a video of this project will be featured in Express Yourself’s 25th Annual performance.

GreenRoots, Inc. (Chelsea)
Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO): To design and paint Chelsea storm drains to raise awareness about storm-water runoff through the means of public art.

Groundwork Lawrence (Lawrence)
Green Team recycling art and awareness project: To collectively create a piece of artwork using a piece of recycled pipe from the recent gas explosions in Lawrence. This piece will represent the strength of the Lawrence community in the face of adversity. The art piece will be revealed to the community at the Lawrence S.A.L.S.A (Supporting Active Lifestyles for All) Festival.

Hyde Square Task Force (Boston)
Ritmo en Acción Showcase: To collectively choreograph a showcase of 11 different Afro Latin dances, and perform them for the community in a public event.

New Bedford Whaling Museum (New Bedford)
Once upon a teenager: a storytelling project: To record each of NBWM’s Youth Apprentice’s life stories and showcase them in an exhibition for the community,  as well as the 10th anniversary celebration of NBWM’s Apprenticeship Program.

New England Aquarium (Boston)
Prompting Youth Action: It’s our time: To create an educational video in collaboration with Zumix. This  video will be shown at four public events to educate and inspire young people in the pursuit of  community and state action to promote an ecologically aware legislature.

Sociedad Latina (Boston)
Raices open mic series:  To design and lead a monthly open mic series titled “Raices” featuring guest artists and youth performers. These sessions will be open to the community to discover new artists of different backgrounds whilst providing a safe place for all.

The Clubhouse Network (Boston)
Digital illustration with Paintool SAI: To offer a series of youth-led digital illustration workshops for the community and Clubhouse members. The product of these workshops will be presented in exhibitions around the community to promote youth engagement and productivity.

Worcester Public Schools (Worcester)
Unites Master Class Project: To design and deliver a series of high school student-led master classes for elementary school students in seven different Worcester public elementary schools.

Worcester Youth Center (Worcester)
YouthSpeak!: Talent Show: To design and host a series of monthly talent shows, January 2019 to June 2019; with Performers recruited from current Worcester Youth Center participants, as well as youth from the City of Worcester and beyond. This program will allow talent show participants an opportunity to showcase creative talents whilst creating more events for the local community.

Hamilton Happening

Young women walking to Boston Opera House to see Hamilton

This fall Hamilton, the musical and cultural phenomenon, drew standing-room-only crowds from adults and children of all ages during its run at the Boston Opera House. Along with the show came the Hamilton Education Program — a partnership between The Gilder Lehrman Institute, the producers of Hamilton, and the Lin-Manuel Miranda family — in which students from high schools with high percentages of low-income families are invited to see the show and integrate Alexander Hamilton and the founding era into their classroom studies.

2,500 students from schools across Massachusetts attended two stirring special events in Boston, where young people performed their own Hamilton-inspired dance, music, and spoken word on the very stage where the play had been performed. These impassioned readings and performances were accompanied by thundering applause and cheers from an audience that owned each line being recited. By presenting an original work on the founding era, each young person had earned their way to this stage, using their creativity to bring history to life through monologues, rhymes, songs, and poems.

Before the show, teachers guided students through a unique, hands-on class project using Gilder Lehrman Institute resources to introduce the people, events, and documents of the founding era. Students also learned how Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, incorporated primary sources into the songs he wrote for the show and used that knowledge to produce their own performance pieces.

Mass Cultural Council proudly supported this unique learning opportunity, as schools took advantage of our Big Yellow School Bus grants to give students a chance be part of the cultural movement sparked by Miranda’s genius. Many of our Creative Youth Development programs participated actively, bringing their vision and voice onto the stage:

Hamilton inspired me to take a chance. Like Alexander Hamilton, don’t wait for things come to you. Like Aaron Burr; you’ve got to go for it.” – Luis Gonzalez, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

“I think Hamilton‘s deeper meaning shows us that there are many perspectives to see something and we should always keep an open mind.” – Francely Rosario, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Hamilton showed me that in life, there is nothing that can give you what you want. You need to work hard to get what you want.” – Adonis Jimenez, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Hamilton made me think of more ways one can be creative with art.” – Edwin Padilla, Margarita Muñiz Academy student

Amplify Grantees Honored at State House

Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez speaking at Amplify reception in the State HouseOn May 3, Mass Cultural Council partnered with 15 organizations across the state to bring youth voice to the Massachusetts State House, and celebrate the young leaders who are recipients of this year’s Amplify grants.

Framed by Andrine Pierre-Saint’s thrilling spoken word piece and introspective chamber music performance by Neighborhood Strings, the day brought Representatives Christine Barber, Paul Donato, and Jeffrey Sánchez to celebrate culture’s capacity to empower, elevate, and connect, magnified tenfold by the young performers, activists,  and leaders present.

Amongst congratulations and applause, Rep. Sánchez said, ”To see you here and to see the power of what Mass Cultural Council is doing with state resources is dramatic to me… I see what it’s doing, it’s giving all of you a voice.”

Información del evento de ‘Amplify’ en Español.

Maestro José Antonio Abreu: A Tribute

Boston String Academy (BSA), a Mass Cultural Council grantee, is inspired by El Sistema. BSA provides after school string programs for inner-city young students, offering high quality string instrument instruction, using standards that will give them the necessary skills to build a strong foundation in their musical growth. 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.

Anita Walker
Executive Director

Rodrigo Guerrero
Creative Youth Development Program Manager

Announcing 2018 Amplify Grants

For the third year in a row, Mass Cultural Council is proud to award 15 Amplify grants totaling $15,000 to projects designed and executed by young people in programs receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding, furthering the Commonwealth’s investment in youth leadership and empowerment.

This year the Amplify process not only encouraged young people to design and lead their own projects for their communities’ benefit, but also included young people and program alums into the evaluation panel. This unique panel worked with impeccable professionalism to ensure that proposed projects had the right balance of quality, innovation, and youth involvement, and thrived in the opportunity to have a voice in how these funds are helping programs across the state.

2018 Amplify panelists: (Left to right) Gladys Hidalgo, Raw Art Works; Rachel Cummings, Express Yourself; Corey DePina, Zumix; Raquel Navarro, Sociedad Latina; and Marquis Victor, Elevated Thought. With Shaneez Tyndall, Mass Cultural Council.Thanks to our 2018 Amplify panelists: (Left to right) Gladys Hidalgo, Raw Art Works; Rachel Cummings, Express Yourself; Corey DePina, Zumix; Raquel Navarro, Sociedad Latina; and Marquis Victor, Elevated Thought. With Shaneez Tyndall, Mass Cultural Council.

2018 Amplify Grant Recipients

BALLET ROX
A conceptual dance project demonstrating and addressing social issues present among young teens such as bullying, body image, and cultural differences. The dance will be performed at the Wake up the Earth Festival and Dance for World community.

BIRD STREET COMMUNITY CENTER
Youth will experience a career exploration of the fashion field learning how to create and put on their own photo shoots, design and construct custom made clothing using fabric materials and equipment, and publish a magazine highlighting their efforts and successes throughout the year.

BOOKS OF HOPE
Teen facilitator Andrine will plan the curriculum through 2017-2018 and execute monthly lessons and a series of creative writing workshops for teens and preteens in coordination with Books of Hope and Mystic Learning Center staff and administration.

BOSTON CITY SINGERS
Through music and illustration, the tour choir will compose works of art that visualize ‘what music means to me.’ Members will use various mediums to personalize their work which will be presented to the choir, photographed and made into a banner which will be displayed at local cafes, Boston Public Library Dorchester, and the Strand Theater.

CLUBHOUSE NETWORK
Through a series of hands-on workshops, students will use Vocaloid – a software program which enables users to synthesize “singing” – to learn about vocal synthesis, music production, animation, and creative collaboration through the creation of original songs and music videos.

COMMUNITY ART CENTER
Students will create the Port Art blog to document stories, articles, videos, updates, and personal podcasts focusing on two community needs – the important role of arts in Cambridge and youth voice. The blog plans to engage 150 teen contributors.

ELEVATED THOUGHT
Falling under Elevated Thought’s ‘Nature of Home’ focus, the documentary project ‘Immigrant Narratives’ will capture immigration stories of members of the community. Stories will come to life through camera interviews, photography, and interpretation of these narratives through poetry.

ENCHANTED CIRCLE THEATER
Designed by leaders of the Youth Truth performance ensemble, ‘Sharing our Truth’ is an abbreviated performance of the Youth Truth script. The project will spread awareness of teens experiencing out of home care and teach peers how to support these students.

GROUNDWORK LAWRENCE
Using the Storytelling Project Curriculum created by Columbia University, students will learn about race and racism and consider how diverse stories can make a difference. Each student will share positive personal stories of living in Lawrence and redefine the media’s narrative on the Lawrence community through art, writing, and performance.

HYDE SQUARE TASK FORCE
Ritmo en Accion youth leaders will collaborate with the music and theatre youth teams to adapt Afro-Latin folktales into a public performance to share with the community. Students will work with project scholar Dr. Lorna Rivera and other content specific experts to ensure the authenticity and relevance of the dance to the folktale’s culture of origin.

KIDS 4 HARMONY
Students will perform original compositions along with accompanying visual and written components guided by the theme of “The Berkshires” in which students will explore a location, event, or feeling associated with living in the Berkshires.

NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM
Apprentices will create an exhibition at the Museum focusing on New Bedford’s first black photographer, James E. Reed. Students will explore who James was, learn about the history and business of photography and explore the history of the city of New Bedford through the eyes of the photographer. The final exhibition will showcase original work by the apprentices as well as provide access to materials in the Museum’s collection including the original cameras, backdrops and photographs of James E. Reed.

PROVINCETOWN ART ASSOCIATION & MUSEUM (PAAM)
Five workshops taught by 10 current Art Reach student-artists with focuses on dry point etching, painting, color theory, writing and character development, and life drawing will be presented to the public over the weekend of May 12-13, 2018. This is an intergenerational project allowing Art Reach students to showcase lessons from PAAM and an opportunity for adults to learn from the younger generation. The project will provide income to student teachers for curriculum planning and teaching/co-teaching as well as a platform for creative leadership in the community.

WORCESTER YOUTH CENTER
Students will work with an artist to explore social justice issues and design a mural for the WYC building in a 7-week creative expression program. A culminating event will be held in which youth and the community will paint the mural over a recently demolished portion of the WYC building.

WORCESTER CHAMBER MUSIC
Students will have the opportunity to work in a studio to record chamber music which can be streamed online and visit WCATV to talk about the program and perform live on television. This project will bring classical music to populations who don’t normally hear or have access to it (i.e. nursing homes).

Mass Cultural Council Convenes International CYD Leaders

International CYD Leaders at Boston ConveningIn July, as part of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership’s stakeholders’ meeting, Mass Cultural Council took the opportunity to host a cohort of international guests to spark a conversation on how the field of practice looks around the world.

With a varied roster of national and local agencies, educators, artists, and academia from South Korea, Scotland, India, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand, our guests participated actively in the first two days of the national meeting, getting to know their colleagues and their programs but most importantly our young people, their needs, and their capacity.

After the national convening was over, our international cohort met to distill the findings of the previous days. Led by veteran teaching artist Eric Booth, we engaged in an incredibly fertile conversation, in which different models and approaches were presented, all unified by the importance of empowering young people and nurturing creativity as an integral part of our communities. The richness and diversity helped us prove that the work of Creative Youth Development occurs in a myriad ways, and opened up a larger conversation in finding opportunities to better support it.

We are grateful to have connected with these distinguished guests and thank them  for their outstanding participation and contribution to this gathering:

Mass Cultural Council is committed to continuing these conversations, and in them, we are hoping to bring in as many of our grantees as possible, showcasing them as examples of excellent practice, and always looking for ways to improve our capacity in this exciting field of practice.

Hyde Square Task Force Youth Writes Musical for Boston’s Latin Quarter

A young woman and young man sing and hold hands facing one another outside on a sunny day. Image by Mark Saperstein.

Couple is singing and holding hands to the left of the frame, while a crowd of mostly standing onlookers watches their performance on the right side of the frame. Image by Jessica Guzman.This year for the first time ever, and with support from Mass Cultural Council’s Amplify grant, Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) youth and staff undertook the immense challenge of co-writing and co-producing an original musical.

What came out of that process was El Barrio: Boston’s Latin Quarter, an interactive show featuring the stories of countless immigrants and hard working families that have contributed to the fabric of the community in the Hyde/Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.

 

“My name is Orlando and I’ll try to say it slow

Puerto Rican boy and my flow runs this show

Raised without a father, just me and my brother and my mother

who every day just keep getting stronger.”

Orlando is a is one of the lead character  and was played by Victor, one of HSTF’s youth dancers.

In a true show of Amplify’s  spirit, Victor and his peers from HSTF’s Ritmo en Acción Afro-Latin dance team co-choreographed original pieces for the musical, derived from bachata, merengue, salsa, and Latin-infused hip-hop. For the first time, Ritmo dancers collaborated extensively with their peers on the Music and Theater teams to produce this musical, using their neighborhood as a moving stage. Ritmo dancers, working with Program Coordinator Audrey Guerrero and Resident Artist Angeline Egea, choreographed steps to original songs written and performed by youth musicians, and followed stage direction and cues from youth on the Theater team.

Young man singing in Hyde Square Task Force's El Barrio! musical. Photo by Jessica Guzman.Hundreds of community members took part in matinee and evening performances, traveling through the show with performers. Through dance and through the arts, this young group shared the history of their community, while growing outside of their primary artistic disciplines and leading this exuberant demonstration of the power of creative youth development. HSTF youth and staff eagerly await the next opportunity to showcase the stories, values, and potential that defines their community.

See more photos from El Barrio: Boston’s Latin Quarter Musical.

Youth Voice Amplified at State House Celebration

Last month, we gathered young people, educators, and leaders from creative youth development programs, and their legislators at the State House to celebrate our Amplify grant recipients.

Now in its second year, Amplify has funded 27 projects designed and executed by young people in programs currently supported by our YouthReach and SerHacer programs. The grants support the creation of work by young people in the arts, sciences, or humanities that demonstrates the capacity they have to be visible and audible participants in developing safe and thriving communities throughout the Commonwealth.​

A young filmmaker from the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Xavier Harvey, described the experience of being an Amplify grantee as “innovation, inspiration, and motivation”:

Amplify grant recipient Boston City Singers shared their voice:

And Marquis Victor, President and Executive Director of Elevated Thought in Lawrence, spoke with passion and poetry.

Legislators were on hand to congratulate the youth leaders, including Senator Adam Hinds, Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development.

“I’m so glad that you are stepping up in helping your communities, and I want you to know that in this building you’ve got a bunch of people who are going to get your back, and make sure that you can keep doing that,” he said.

Gustavo Dudamel Lectures at Harvard University

In November, as part of a series of Lectures at Harvard University called “the Creative Class”, students from both the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and the Longy Sistema Side-by-Side orchestra had the opportunity to work with the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel.

In a sit-down conversation with LA Phil CEO Deborah Borda, Dudamel spoke at length of his experience as young Venezuelan musician in El Sistema (Venezuela’s Youth Orchestras and Choirs Program), and his commitment to support music education as an opportunity to develop creative potential, and develop the critical learning and life skills young people need to become active contributors to their communities.

To this end, besides his continued engagement with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Dudamel has championed the creation of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) with the LA Phil and its community partners to provide free instruments and intensive music training to students from underserved neighborhoods, empowering them to become vital citizens, leaders, and agents of change.

Dudamel pointed out the proliferation of Sistema inspired initiatives in the United States, specifically the high concentration of them in Massachusetts, where eighteen programs like these receive support from the MCC through its SerHacer grants.

In recognition of his artistic conscience and commitment as a music educator,  the young Venezuelan Maestro was awarded Harvard’s Luise Vosgerchian Teaching Award at the end of the lecture.