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.