This Spring we hosted a series of “Culture Chats,” to highlight the power of culture through resilience, adaptation, agility, and innovation.
These conversations offered a break from the gloom of the Coronavirus, a little bit of sunshine to remind us that the arts and culture are alive and well, if not necessarily in the theaters and venues where we’re used to finding them.
Watch our conversations with these Creative Youth Development leaders:
The Lewis Prize for Music invests in youth music organizations and their leaders to facilitate positive change through access to music education. Each of the COVID-19 Community Response Fund recipients embody this goal; they do extraordinary work providing young people with opportunities to learn, perform and create music while also serving their immediate and unique needs around food, transportation, mental health, and academics.
A total of $1.25 million was awarded nationwide, with grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000.
“Access to music enriches the social fabric of our lives,” said Daniel Lewis, Founder and Chairman of the Lewis Prize for Music. “The organizations and leaders we have chosen to support in these times play a critical role in the lives and communities of the young people they support. In the face of unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 and racial injustice across the country, Creative Youth Development organizations are devoting all of their resources to uplift both the creative and material well-being of young people and their families. We are thrilled to support these organizations and be an advocate for the entire Creative Youth Development field.”
On the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Kim Dawson, Director of Advancement at ZUMIX. A venerable creative youth development organization in East Boston, ZUMIX works with a largely immigrant community to better equip its youth to be able to navigate the world once they have graduated out of their programs and high school. Dawson shares how they are expanding their opportunities for workforce development to help youth gain the skills they need to be paid well to do something they really love.
On the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Marquis Victor, Founding Executive Director of Elevated Thought. He believes that art is a form of liberation, and that young people – once they have access and exposure to art – are able to build a foundation of self, expand their minds and eyes to identify issues in their communities, and use art to surface creative solutions for those issues.
Today our governing Council voted to distribute federal CARES Act funds received by Mass Cultural Council to 74 Creative Youth Development (CYD) organizations statewide. Creative Youth Development programs foster creative expression while supporting core social and emotional skills, engaging young people of all ages as empowered agents in their own lives. As a practice, Creative Youth Development draws from the belief that culture plays a major role in the growth of creative, productive, and independent-minded individuals and thriving communities. After the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, these programs will be more vital than ever to the vulnerable youth and families they serve.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on March 27. This Act provides more than $2 trillion in economic assistance to protect Americans from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) received $75 million from the CARES Act to support arts and culture jobs and organizations nationwide. To meet this intent, the NEA awarded 40 percent of these funds directly to state and regional arts agencies, like Mass Cultural Council, to distribute through existing funding programs, and will award sixty percent of these funds as direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations across the United States.
Mass Cultural Council received $475,300 from the NEA’s CARES Act allocation. The Agency is expected to distribute this funding within Massachusetts’ cultural sector. NEA rules stipulate that the funding must go to organizations, not individual artists, and in a conference call with state agency heads the NEA Chair encouraged each agency to put the money to work in the field as quickly as possible.
As determined by the governing Council today, Mass Cultural Council will immediately begin to distribute its CARES Act allocation by making $7,000 awards to 74 CYD programs (YouthReach and SerHacer grantees). However, $7,000 is the maximum COVID-19-related financial supplement authorized at this time: the 36 CYD programs also eligible to receive a $2,250 financial supplement to their CIP operating grant through our Safe Harbors Initiative will receive a proportionally reduced CARES Act supplement of $4,750. No application is necessary; the CARES Act financial supplement will be automatically distributed to existing YouthReach and SerHacer grantees.
The Council believes distributing CARES Act funds to these recipients meets three key criteria: need, speed, and diversity.
Ethnic Diversity: 80% of the constituents served in these programs are people of color. Public health experts note that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting people of color.
Geographic Diversity: Mass Cultural Councils funds CYD programs in the same six geographic regions, we used to determine regional equity with our COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals.
More than half of the 9,400 young people served by our currently-funded CYD programs live in economically depressed rural and urban areas.
19% of these youth live in public housing.
23% live in homes where English is not spoken and 11% of the youth are foreign-born.
19% of these youth have disabilities.
CYD programs provide safe spaces for youth with trauma coming from hostile homes and neighborhoods.
The stipends earned by youth in these programs help pay for food and rent for their families.
The Mass Cultural Council is the major funder for these programs in Massachusetts. Most private funders are no longer investing in Creative Youth Development.
Mass Cultural Council has existing contractual relationships with these programs which will allow us to efficiently process and distribute these funds.
Creative Youth Development is an intentional process that helps young people build attributes and skills needed to participate successfully in adolescence and adult life. Creative Youth Development programs approach young people as active agents of their own change, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. Whether using the arts, humanities, or sciences in such programs, certain characteristics are essential in any Creative Youth Development program:
Provide safe and healthy youth spaces.
Foster the development of positive relationships and social skills.
Set high expectations for growth and learning; and
Address the broader context in which creative youth development operates.
Since social distancing was enforced in Massachusetts eight weeks ago, Mass Cultural Council has been inundated with stories from our CYD programs that underscore the urgent need for help now, and the critical role these programs will play in recovery when we begin to “reopen for business” after this crisis subsides. In recent online CYD community conversations, the following insights were shared by youth participants:
“A lot of young artists are affected by COVID. Resources are available for older artists but not younger artists.”
“I miss my art education and the initiative it plants in me.” …“I miss joyfully expressing myself.”
“My mental health is suffering when so much of my energy is going towards self-preservation.”
“The hardest part is just not having social connection. It’s not easy to be in a household where mental health is not recognized.”
“The house is very crowded and it’s hard to find alone-space.”
Further, we have heard updates from staff at the New Bedford Whaling Museum describing the impact of the pandemic on students missing consistency and normalcy, and stories of foster care youth in Enchanted Circle Theater‘s program who are trying desperately to stay connected with the Theater, “because we are family.”
Today, 9,400 at-risk youth are engaged in Creative Youth Development by Mass Cultural Council grantees. The majority of CYD youth entered our programs having experienced trauma. They will need these programs more than ever on the other side of this crisis. With today’s vote, our governing Council is taking steps to help these programs stay afloat so they will be there for our youth when this public health crisis ends.
Mass Cultural Council appreciates the passionate advocacy of many in the cultural sector who contacted their Congressional Representative and U.S. Senators to ensure arts and culture were included in the CARES Act. The Agency recognizes that limited resources require difficult decisions. Since March, Mass Cultural Council has redeployed existing Agency funding to provide supplemental financial assistance to our CIP Gateway and Portfolio organizations through the Safe Harbors Initiative and creative professionals with our COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals. We know through our data collection efforts that Massachusetts cultural organizations and individual artists, teaching artists, humanists, and scientists are dealing with unprecedented economic impacts related to COVID-19. Millions in revenue and personal income have been lost. Thousands of cultural sector jobs and creative gigs have been eliminated or cancelled.
Our Executive Director Anita Walker believes that it will take collective action: social distancing, wearing of masks, and other sanitation practices, to defeat the coronavirus. She also knows that it is our collective action and support that are necessary to revive our creative economy. Mass Cultural Council remains committed to providing guidance, assistance, and financial support to the cultural sector as resources are identified, and will continue to join our partners, including MASSCreative and Mass Humanities, as vocal advocates for Massachusetts’ nonprofit cultural organizations and creative individuals as mitigation packages are developed by our policymakers.
The Lewis Prize for Music has launched a $1 million COVID-19 Community Response Fund for Creative Youth Development leaders and youth music programs to support their responsive and adaptive efforts during COVID-19. This fund will distribute over 20 grants of $25,000 to $50,000 to youth-serving music programs. The application closes on May 8 with grants distributed on June 16. Visit The Lewis Prize for Music for more information.
On the Mass Cultural Council’s podcast, Creative Minds Out Loud, we spoke with Celina Miranda, Executive Director of Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF). She discusses the integral role of young people in the creation of Boston’s Latin Quarter Cultural District. She says that HSTF youth were compelled to speak up about the importance of having a place to call home and a place that recognizes their strengths and assets. The voices of these young people were powerful and central in the transformation of their neighborhood.
As part of Americans for the Arts’ work on their Creative Youth Development Toolkit, they commissioned field experts to produce a set of seven landscape analyses about key topics within youth development. These papers identify trends in creative youth development, share recommendations for CYD practitioners, and suggest areas for future exploration. All of them are now available online: