Even Pears Speak to Me

Andrine Pierresaint, sitting on the floor smiling, looking up, a small fluffy dog on her lap looks up at her. Photo: Alexandra Wimley.Meet Andrine Pierresaint, a longtime Books of Hope youth leader and a 15-year-old force to be reckoned with.

In her mid-teens, Andrine is not only an award-winning poet and  performer, but also a published author who facilitates a weekly series of creative writing workshops for a group of pre-teens at the Mystic Learning Center in Somerville, MA.

For Andrine, poetry has been an outlet for processing challenging emotions in a constructive way as well as a bridge to new worlds, connecting her to a community of mentors and young people from all walks of life.

“I have other people that I know that, like, if I want to talk about something I can talk to them about it, but the first person I’m going to think about to talk about poetry and what happened in an event and how I’m feeling about a poem, is Erich. He brought me to Louder Than A Bomb, and it was like a whole new world,” Andrine reflects.

Erich Haygun is the Program Director at Books of Hope (BOH), created in 1990 by Anika Nailah as a creative outlet for young people in and around the Mystic Learning Center. Specializing in poetry, BOH provides opportunities for young people to develop and refine their creative writing skills through peer mentorship.

Locally, BOH features their youth leaders at Boston Public Library’s Teen Central in Back Bay from 3-5pm the last Friday of every month. Additionally, BOH hosts “BEEN OUT HERE,” an all-ages open-mic and workshop every second Wednesday from 6-9pm at The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville, in collaboration with The Center for Teen Empowerment. BOH also prepares a team of young people to compete in the annual statewide Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Slam. In her time at Books of Hope, Andrine has participated in the competition multiple times.

“Isn’t poetry the fuel that pulls you out of bed? Something you do by yourself, for yourself, for your team, for your family, with your dreams, despite money, despite anxiety? Isn’t poetry something you do with your heaviest heart, with your last breath, with your whole life?”

Andrine Pierresaint embracing in a hug. Photo: Alexandra Wimley.Profoundly supportive of young people, BOH also offers paid fellowships to participants who demonstrate a commitment to their craft and are dedicated to sharpening their skills. Through these fellowships, young people have access to writing workshops, publication and performance opportunities, professional development as well as peer-mentoring training. Young people learn skills to explore their creative paths while also gaining technical assistance and financial rewards for their hard work.

Andrine’s first book entitled Even Pears Speak to Me features a collection of poems that address race issues, fat-phobia, mental abuse, neglect and its lasting effects. Her poetry also explores familial relationships and the power of learning to love yourself.

More on Andrine’s journey:

 

Video by Alexandra Wimley and Breana Stephen.

Photos by Alexandra Wimley.

Nano-Interview with Pedro Cruz of IBA

Pedro CruzName: Pedro Cruz
Organization: IBA (Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion)
Title: Youth Arts Program Coordinator
Artistic Genre: Photography/Poetry
Years in the Field: 11

What do you do at IBA?
I am currently the Youth Arts Program Coordinator for IBA’s Youth Development Team. This means I work with teens on a daily basis throughout the school and summer cycle. According to my job description my duties are to design art based curriculum that introduces the idea of social justice, as well as help the youth express their own views and concerns through art. But anyone in this field knows it’s more than that. If you ask me, my number one job is to build strong, long lasting relationships with my youth. The type of relationships that save lives.

Why do you do what you do?
I was born and raised in what I like to call a concrete jungle. It’s easy to be overlooked or judged when you’re a young minority from a community that suffers from poverty, turf wars and gentrification. I remember while growing up the only safe space I had was the local community center and teen spaces. I will never forget the impact those places had on me. I guess now I just want to be who I wish I had when I was younger.

What comes easiest to you in this work?
The easiest thing for me about this job is connecting with the youth. There is no science to it. I just do it. I was born and raised in the same streets they are navigating today. I know their struggles, their challenges and their desires. I know what they have to go through on a daily basis. I know how it feels to leave your neighborhood and feel as if you’re crossing into enemy territory. I know how it is to stay out of trouble but still be considered part of the problem just because of where you live or who you hang out with. These things can’t be thought. They must be lived.

What challenges you in this work?
The one thing that challenges me most is not being able to serve every youth that I come across. Sometimes it’s because of limited space or funding, but it hurts me to meet a youth and not be able to serve them the way they need to be served. Some youth require a lot more attention than others do, and that is not something easy to live with. In this job you need to know when to ask for help, and asking for help wasn’t something I did a lot of growing up.

What does it mean to your community that you do this work?
The beauty of all of this is that I currently work for the same Creative Youth Development Program I attended when I was a teenager. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in my community and serve children I literally saw grow up around me. At this point, I can only speak from what I been told and I like to think that it means a lot to my community to see me doing this type of work. There has been many cases where parents feel a lot more comfortable allowing their kids to participate once they know it’s me who’s running the workshop or activity. That has to count for something.

How do you blow off steam?
Believe it or not, I go for walks around the city. No destination in mind. I just leave my house and wander around. There’s something about this process that I find therapeutic. I let my spirit guide me as I am studying people, soaking in the sounds and just watching an entire city live around me.

What do you create in your free time?
Easy- photographs and poems.

What music do you like listen to (if even a little too loudly)?
I must admit, I am possibly the biggest Blackbear fan in Boston. I love his music because it’s real. There’s no filter or sugarcoating to it. It is what it is. I like to think my art is the same way.

The unauthorized biography of your life is titled:
“Building New Rome”

What’s next?
That’s always a good question to think about. Truthfully, I am currently working on a poetry book and building my photography brand. I just want to continue building my name as an artist and youth worker in the Boston area.

See Pedro’s work:
www.flakoveli.com
www.instagram.com/mrflakoveli

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

Join Us – META Fellows Showcase on April 4

The Klarman Family Foundation and Mass Cultural Council invite you to the Final Showcase of the Music Educator and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship Program Pilot on Wednesday, April 4. Over the past two years, 46 Fellows from more than 30 schools and non-profit organizations throughout Massachusetts have come together to build a community of practice to enhance the impact of music programs on young people.

At this culminating Showcase, Fellows will share tools and knowledge they have developed to address key challenges and opportunities in the field of music education. These projects build on the group learning the Fellows have done through formal sessions, site visits, and artistic/professional development grants.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 4, 4-6PM
WHERE: Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston
WHO: Teaching artists and music educators, higher education leaders, other key stakeholders involved in youth music training or at local music institutions
PROGRAM:

  • 4-5pm: Reception, Poster Sessions, musical performances by youth
  • 5-6pm: Speaking program

Please RSVP and share this invitation with other educators in your community.

Podcast: Creating Great Human Beings, One Song at a Time

Anthony Trecek-KingOn the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Dr. Anthony Trecek-King about Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC).

At BCC music is a catalyst to create social change. BCC Artistic Director Dr. Anthony Trecek-King recounts how kids from over 120 different zip codes come to the Chorus to learn about music, and are also given time to discuss and learn about their differences and how they can work together to become a more creative and cohesive community.

Listen to the episode.

Read the transcript.

Check out other episodes featuring Creative Youth Development leaders.

Tortilla Social with Urbano

Various people sitting at a long table at Urbano, eating tortillas, and talking. Image by Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.Throughout Fall 2017, Urbano Project youth artists collaborated with interdisciplinary artist-in-residence, Salvador Jimenez-Flores on “Tortilla Socials” – public, interactive printmaking workshops in Jamaica Plain. Using a multi-functional tortilla press designed by Jimenez-Flores himself, participants of all ages had the opportunity to create their own art prints while eating freshly made tortillas.

an artist's working space is covered with tortilla-sized print-making plates, and some prints of a hand held into a fist. Image by Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.
Jimenez-Flores envisioned the people of Jamaica Plain gathering to create art, enjoy Mexican food, and engage in a bilingual dialogue in public community spaces. “Group print-making is a tool for self-expression,” said Jimenez-Flores. “Advocacy and education and food has long been a uniter of communities of all ages.”

A little girl looks at the print that's come from the torilla press in front of her, while 2 young adults look on, smiling. Image by Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.An opening reception and exhibition was held in December 2017 showcasing pieces created during workshops along with a film documenting the community art project.

In January, 14 Urbano fellows and youth artists joined Salvador and printmaker Amelia Spinney for the first time in a week-long printmaking intensive where they designed and produced a collaborative print for public display at the end of the week. Limited edition prints for public display and interventions related to Urbano’s 2018 theme of “Resilience and Sustainability” will be available. The exhibition will be open through March 3, 2018 in Urbano’s studio at 29 Germania St, Building F, Boston.

(Images: Faizal Westcott, courtesy of Urbano Project.)

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).

Creative Youth Development

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