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Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC) and Raw Art Works, two nationally-recognized creative youth development organizations, came together in January for a project on “Raw Truth.” The “Raw Truth” theme was meant as a nod to the vocal power of the voice, as well as to Dr. King facing the raw social truths of injustice, and the need for using one’s voice to advocate for equity and justice. The concept of “Raw Truth” was also meant to give voice to those inner truths people don’t always get a safe space in which to share.
All BCC choirs participated in the activity and, like audience members’ of the BCC’s MLK concert, the singers were asked what their raw truths were. Many of the singers from age 7 to high school took this activity very seriously and answered in very personal ways. Singers wrote these on index cards and then the Raw Chiefs from Raw Art Works created an art piece that they painted and brought to Jordan Hall on MLK day.
A few responses from BCC’s youngest singers’ cards:
“My family can never afford camps or schools without a scholarship.”
“I didn’t help someone in need when I should have.”
“My friend got shot two months ago.”
“I don’t feel like I have any true friends.”
“My dad went to jail.”
“My great grandparents died in the Holocaust.”
“I have always been scared of the dark.”
“I am afraid of being judged by people at school, and I think it’s because I judge myself.”
A video excerpt of Chorus members being led through a “Raw Truth” conversation:
We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent
visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient
society, on the streets where we live, in our schools.
– Maxine Greene
Today the MCC introduces Amplify Youth Voices; a new initiative to raise the voices of young people whose creative expression is driving positive change in communities across the state.
Amplify grants provide support for projects designed and executed by young people in programs that are currently receiving YouthReach or SerHacer funding. A total of $11,440 was awarded with each grantee receiving up to $1,000.
Amplify projects include:
Actors Shakespeare Project, Boston – To lead a group of youth to create an original play based on Shakespeare’s plays.
BalletRox, Boston – To create a Soca Dance for the Spontaneous Celebration’s Wake up the Earth Festival on May 7th, 2016.
Books of Hope, Somerville – To solicit work from fellow competitors at the Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival to publish into an anthology.
Community Art Center, Cambridge – To curate a portion of the ‘Do It Your Damn Self’ National Youth Film Festival in Cambridge and host screenings for young people at a Cambridge public school and MIT.
Community Music School of Springfield, Springfield – To follow the musical journey of 200 students in Chestnut Middle School’s El Sistema-inspired program by creating a video diary for the fellow students, parents, and administrators at the school.
Community Music School of Springfield, Springfield – To follow the musical journey of 40 students in Duggan Middle School’s El Sistema-inspired program by creating a video diary for the fellow students, parents, and administrators at the school.
Express Yourself, Beverly – To lead Express Yourself participants in creating large scale public art exhibition at the Cummings Center in Beverly.
Mass Audobon, Lowell – To create a two-day event in Lucy Larcom Park to introduce youth and families to the parks in Lowell and help young people move away from screens and into natural settings.
Performance Project, Springfield – To co-create a new physical theater piece for 10 youth participants entitled ‘Tenderness’.
Raw Art Works, Lynn – To partner with The Food Project in Lynn to bring healthy food and food education to participants in RAW’s Creative Youth Development programming.
Sociedad Latina, Boston – To lead the creation of a community art exhibit entitled ‘Quien Soy Yo’ (Who I am)
Worcester Youth Center, Worcester – To lead a visual arts program developed for other youth at the Center who have not engaged with art making, entitled YouthARTWorkz.
The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is accepting applications for the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.
The 12 award-winning programs this year will each receive $10,000 and an invitation to accept their award from the President’s Committee’s Honorary Chairman, First Lady Michelle Obama, at a ceremony at the White House.
After-school and out-of-school time arts and humanities programs are encouraged to apply. Access the online application.
Completed applications will only be accepted via the online process and are due by Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 5:00 PM PST.
For the past year, young women at Artists For Humanity (AFH) have been working on “Strictly Business – Women of Influence,” a project profiling women as decision makers in today’s society.
Through “Strictly Business” AFH provides an opportunity for young women to engage in a dialogue with women across a variety of industries, to hear first hand stories of success, and to give them access to positive role models, with the aim of inspiring them to become their own advocates and to advance their future.
The young woman at AFH have interviewed:
- Martha Coakley, former Attorney General, Massachusetts
- Debbie First, PR & Communications
- Karen Kaplan, Chairman and CEO, Hill Holliday
- Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, United States Department of Homeland Security
- Jean Kilbourne, author, speaker and film-maker
- Barbara Krakow, owner Krakow Gallery
- Joyce Linehan, Chief of Policy, City of Boston
- Joan Y. Reede, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership at Harvard Medical School
- Shirley Lord Rosenthal, Former Senior Beauty Editor of Vogue
- Sally Susman, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Pfizer
- Kelly Talamas, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Mexico & Latin America
I arrived in Boston from the Dominican Republic when I was 13. No one told me I was going to a new country until the day before I left. When I got to Boston, I lived with my grandmother in a housing project in South Boston. I remember it was the end of November, and I didn’t have any warm clothes. I didn’t speak a word of English.
Right away I got expelled from school for my involvement in a fight. Fighting was a common activity for me. I had a lot of anger and the streets gave me a place to express it. I was the type of kid who, if I didn’t like the way you looked at me, there would probably be a fight.
Then, a friend of mine told me about a dance program at Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF).
Once there I learned Latin dance and began to feel more and more comfortable. I started to learn English. I still had anger, but people accepted me, and if I was in a bad mood, they took the time to talk to me. Soon, I was performing dance all over Boston, and I was surrounded with positive people – teens and adults.
HSTF staff pushed me on my academics, but I still couldn’t graduate on time. The summer after 12th grade, my HSTF mentor worked with me and helped me complete high school. I started taking classes at Bunker Hill Community College, and a week into the semester, I had another incident on the streets. I was going to a party in the Lenox Street projects, and I got shot. I hit the ground to avoid a hail of bullets, but one of them caught my leg. Even though I lost a lot of blood, I was able to recover.
I realized I had to set my priorities straight, once and for all. I had to change my focus, so I threw myself into work, school, and dance.
At Bunker Hill, HSTF continued to support me through their college success program. They checked in with me every week. They even came to Bunker Hill and went to the financial aid office with me in order to get me the help I needed. I am in my final year at Bunker Hill. Next year I will attend Mass College of Art and Design to major in graphic design. Someday, my dream is to own my own graphic design company. Meanwhile, I dance. I am a member of the professional Mambo Revelation dance company. I also teach dance to middle school kids.
Published with permission from the Hyde Square Task Force.
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 Massachusetts Cultural Council approved a spending plan yesterday for the coming year that will invest more than $12 million in grants to nonprofit cultural organizations, local cultural councils, education programs, and working artists across the Commonwealth.
Of that spending, more than $1 million will go to supporting Creative Youth Development programs and services , including:
- Three-year grants of $15,000/year awarded to 63 organizations:
$675,000 invested in 45 YouthReach projects, which promote integration of substantive out-of-school arts, humanities, and science opportunities into a collaborative community response to the needs of young people – specifically those at risk of not making a successful transition to young adulthood.
$270,000 invested in 18 SerHacer projects, which support the growing number of intensive, ensemble-based music programs that create music as a vehicle for youth development and social change. SerHacer is the first public support system for El Sistema-inspired work in the nation.
- $10,000 for the creation of a new YouthVoice Program that will provide small grants to young people in funded YouthReach or SerHacer programs to support projects that demonstrate their value as artists in the Commonwealth.
Training: The pilot of a Creative Youth Development Fellows Program to prepare young teaching artists and youth workers to be effective in the classroom, in non-profits, and in their work across sectors with schools and funders.
Research: Support for studies that demonstrate the social, academic, and economic impact of Creative Youth Development.
Resources: The Johnson String Library, which works to remove the musical instrument as a barrier to participation and as a burden to programs, families, and young people.
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.
How can creative change makers walk their talk and more effectively enact the change they want to see in the world? What do innovation and adaptive change look like for organizations that have social change as their core mission? A collection of profiles released this month as part of EmcArts’ Innovation Labs explores these questions in their publication, “Innovation in Action: Three Case Studies from the Intersections of Arts and Social Justice.”
Featuring Massachusetts’ own The Theater Offensive, as well as Alternate ROOTS, and Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, this publication examines the contours, possibilities and limitations of innovation and adaptive change at the intersection of arts and social justice.
The Theater Offensive entered the Innovation Lab to design a national organizing model to support and encourage Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth theaters nationally through
the Pride Youth Theater Alliance (PYTA). PYTA’s mission is to “connect and support queer youth theater organizations, programs, and professionals committed to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied (LGBTQA) youth in North America.” Through the Innovation Lab process, the The Theater Offensive team explored these questions:
- How can youth leadership be operationally central to PYTA, and
- How can the national PYTA network take advantage of the capacities of the locally grounded organization (The Theater Offensive)?