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”:
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.
New Collective Impact Strategy to Strengthen Community-Based Organizations and Empower Practitioners & Youth
Today marks the formal launch of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership between the National Guild for Community Arts Education, Massachusetts Cultural Council, The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and Americans for the Arts. These four organizations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize their joint commitment to advancing creative youth development (CYD) as a field of practice nationwide.
Creative youth development is a recently coined term that organizes a longstanding community of practice that intentionally integrates the arts, sciences, and humanities with youth development principles, sparking young people’s creativity, and building critical learning and life skills that carry into adulthood.
This new coalition is collaborating to organize and accelerate the CYD movement through a collective impact strategy with a common agenda, shared systems and activities, cross-sector engagement, and continuous communications. The Partnership aims to strengthen community-based organizations working in youth development and the arts, sciences, and humanities; develop and support adult practitioners in the field; and benefit youth by increasing access to CYD opportunities throughout the United States.
Last week National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu joined us as we celebrated a recent NEA grant to the National Guild for Community Arts Education to support a collective impact initiative and the creation of the first-ever blueprint to advance Creative Youth Development (CYD). The National Guild accepted this grant on behalf of the national CYD partners: The Massachusetts Cultural Council, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Americans for the Arts, and The National Guild. Representatives from CYD programs throughout the country attended the event.
MCC Executive Director, Anita Walker praised and thanked Massachusetts leadership in the field which has included investments of more than $11 million over the past two decades.
On her remarks, Chu reinforced the importance of creative youth development, which integrates the arts, humanities, and sciences with youth development principles. “Arts education fosters bright, creative, and socially engaged students who will grow up to be our next leaders, parents, teachers, artists, and engineers. Because of your work, you are giving them the tools to lead their best lives.” Chu said with gratitude.
To conclude the program, Project STEP students performed and Project STEP Executive Director, Mary Jaffee, who is stepping down after 11 years, received a recognition for her work. In 2014 and under Jaffee’s leadership, Project STEP received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for its rigorous, comprehensive, year-round classical string training program for underrepresented minorities. This is the highest recognition in the nation.
The National Guild for Community Arts Education, on behalf of a coalition of national partners, has been awarded an NEA Art Works grant for $100,000. The award will support a collective impact initiative and the creation of the first-ever blueprint to advance Creative Youth Development (CYD).
The funds are part of more than $82 million granted in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2016. “The arts are all around us, enhancing our lives in ways both subtle and obvious, expected and unexpected,” said NEA chairman Jane Chu. “Supporting projects like the one from the National Guild for Community Arts Education and its CYD partners offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”
Creative Youth Development is a new term that brings together a longstanding community of practice that intentionally integrates the arts, humanities, and sciences with youth development principles, sparking young people’s creativity and building critical learning and life skills. Representatives of the field met in 2014, to form its first-ever national policy and advocacy agenda and charged a national partnership to oversee implementation. Initiative partners include the National Guild , Americans for the Arts, the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities, and Massachusetts Cultural Council. The blueprint project will engage additional cross-sector organizations, cultivating partners from the youth development field.
“This Art Works award is a huge honor, and a recognition of the dedicated organizations across the country offering CYD programs that support young people in developing creative skills and becoming active members of their communities,” said Jonathan Herman, executive director of the National Guild. “Our national partnership hopes to organize this field, maximize its social impact, and produce a structure to inspire more organizations to develop programs that unleash the creative potential of youth.”
Learn more about Creative Youth Development as part of Americans for the Arts’ (AFTA) webinar series: “Arts Education: What You Need to Know” on Tuesday, September 15 at 3pm. MCC’s Dr. Erik Holmgren will join partners from the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities, and National Guild for Community Arts Education, to discuss this emerging field. Register for the 20-minute webinar, and continue the conversation in Twitter using #CYD from 8-9pm (ET).
The following is a letter to the editor that appeared in The Recorder. It is a fantastic reminder of how Creative Youth Development transcends discipline and allows us to honor creativity in unexpected places:
Thursday, August 6, 2015
In regards to the article “Statewide arts funding increases” (Aug. 1), in addition to wonderful arts-related programs, it is lesser known that the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) also supports several science and environmental initiatives.
Seeds of Solidarity’s SOL Garden program for North Quabbin youth relies on funding from the MCC YouthReach program (and the generosity of individuals locally and beyond) to provide low-income teenagers with a high-quality, garden-based program after school and throughout the summer. Each year, we provide hundreds of North Quabbin high school students with ecology, sustainable-agriculture and renewable-energy presentations in their school science classes. Then, throughout each spring, summer and fall, a diverse group of 25 North Quabbin teens engage in authentic learning and critical conversations on topics such as food and climate change, soil ecology and food justice plus gain real skills for resiliency through growing and cooking healthy food, and design/building projects. They learn civic engagement as they prepare community meals for those in need, help create gardens for local day cares, and educate thousands about composting at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, among a host of other activities.
Importantly, and amidst a social backdrop of increased opiate use, the program provides a safe setting that is a beacon of hope and lifeline to a positive future. For many of the 400 local youth who have participated in our program since 1999, SOL Garden is a focus of their college essay (often first in their family to go) and a significant volunteer and work experience helping qualify them for jobs and careers. We offer our curricula, resources and videos on our website (seedsofsolidarity.org) to help launch similar programs regionally and nationally.
We do our best to keep our local legislators informed about SOL Garden and our other programs, and are very grateful for their efforts on the recent budget and override. This “arts” funding has the added benefit of supporting innovative science and environmental education, and creatively transforming the lives of many North Quabbin youth.
Deborah Habib, is director of the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center. Seeds of Solidarity re-imagines a self sustaining farm as a space for Creative Youth Development in Orange, MA and represents a strong cohort of programs in the sciences and humanities that are supported by YouthReach, STARS, and other MCC programs.
Through their Youth Arts Action Initiative, MASSCreative partners with 18 youth arts groups to provide advocacy training and opportunities for participants to effect change in their communities. Their youth partners represent a broad spectrum of disciplines – from music, theatre, dance, and visual art – and come from diverse backgrounds representing communities around Greater Boston and beyond.
Young artists are already drawn to advocacy. All they need are the right tools to make the political case that arts matter. At MASSCreative, we’ve seen this advocacy firsthand.
In the last few months, the Youth Arts Action Coalition has convened three times, and began to steadily build an advocacy movement in Massachusetts fueled by young artists. In February, our partners came together at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston for a day of training and collaboration that would spark future advocacy. To kick off the day, Sara Stackhouse of Actors’ Shakespeare Project led an exercise that showed us how to tell our stories through the political organizing lens of the Marshall Ganz model. In this exercise, participants took time to understand their own role in the arts and cultural community by learning to tell three stories: ‘of self,’ ‘of us,’ and ‘of now’. Through this model, youth got the chance to tell their own story, connect to the values and interests of their peers, and inspire urgency in what we must do to make change happen.
This exercise revealed to us that tomorrow’s advocacy leaders were right there in the room. For our young artists who are so deeply involved in their own communities, envisioning themselves as part of an advocacy movement was the next logical step.
Next up, it was time to make waves at the State House. Our Youth Arts Action partners – now well-equipped to make their case – joined MASSCreative and 250 other arts advocates at #ArtsMatter Advocacy Day on March 25.
Among the crowd, young people stood out. They marched with pride and conviction in our #ArtsMatter march, turning heads and rallying the troops to make a difference at the State House. When we met with our legislators to talk about arts and cultural impact, it was their stories that helped drive home the message that arts aren’t just nice, but necessary. Their active participation in legislative meetings all over the State House was proof enough of this impact.
Later on, our youth partners took their advocacy a step further by doing what they do best: sharing their art. Youth leader Nick from Zumix took the mic and shared a rap about the impact of arts and culture in their own lives.
With heads nodding along in the audience, Nick made his point clear. The arts matter. They matter in our classrooms, in our neighborhoods, in all spaces occupied by youth. And with a few bars, Nick says it all:
“World leaders are not that; Imagination rules.
So stop taking music and art out of our schools.
I don’t want to hear that it’s not important
You should forfeit that argument; we’re not standing dormant.”
Drew Esposito is a Program Associate at MASSCreative. MASSCreative is proud to collaborate with 18 Youth Arts Action partners: Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Artists for Humanity, Boston Arts Academy, Boston Children’s Chorus, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, Hyde Square Task Force, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, Institute of Contemporary Art, Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Mayor’s Youth Council of Boston, Raw Art Works, Sociedad Latina, Teen Empowerment, The Theater Offensive, The Urbano Project, Urbanity Dance, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and ZUMIX.