All posts by Erik Holmgren

What We Learned From CYD Organizations During COVID-19

Young man with a buzz cut, glasses, a colorful face mask,wearing a tie-dyed hoodie
Youth reflecting on the changing the world. Photograph by a young artist with Elevated Thought.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 74 Creative Youth Development organizations in Massachusetts were forced to pivot, without preparation or training, to remote programming. These organizations faced a unique set of challenges in working with communities which were disproportionately affected by the virus and with young people who were already experiencing significant and systemic challenges in their lives.
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Teacher Voice during COVID-19

Corey DePina, Musician and Youth Development and Performance Manager at Zumix, talks with a youth musician.
Corey DePina, musician and Youth Development and Performance Manager at Zumix, talks with a youth musician.

An amazing thing happened in March of 2020 – with no preparation, no warning, and no training, teachers around the world had to pivot toward creating learning experiences with empty classrooms and studios. There was no policy. Guidelines were late in coming. But the change happened. Teachers at the Community Music Center of Boston moved most of their lessons online, teachers at the Community Music School of Springfield began making YouTube videos of lessons for students to access asynchronously, and education staff at Barrington Stage Company facilitated four hours of youth-developed theater on Zoom.
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Creative Youth Development Serves Our Most Vulnerable

Theater Offensive performance. Photo by Aram Boghosian.
Theater Offensive performance. Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Creative Youth Development (CYD) programs serve some of the most vulnerable youth in Massachusetts. Often these are young people for whom home and school have not been places of support but, instead, the source of trauma in their lives. During the current pandemic, however, many of these youth are sheltered, or trapped, in place in these homes. Early on, when CYD organizations were striving to stay connected to young people, it became very clear that they many were not engaging with arts, humanities, or interpretive science programs that had been such a vibrant part of their lives. They were receding into themselves as a self-preservation mechanism while we as a field were trying to draw them out. This was a simple reminder of something we all know: Young people, all people, need to have their basic needs met – food security, housing, and health – before they can engage fully and creatively.
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The Show Must Go On

One of the key challenges for Creative Youth Development programs during COVID-19 has been the cancellations of culminating events showcasing the work and growth of young people in these programs. Theater performances, concerts, art shows, and open houses all of have been called off, diminishing the feeling of accomplishment for young people and losing a vital opportunity for the organizations to do fundraising.
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CYD Teaching Artist Fellowship Launched

Initial convening of the Creative Youth Development Teaching Artist Fellowship Pilot Program.
Initial convening of the Creative Youth Development Teaching Artist Fellowship Pilot Program.

A new program from Mass Cultural Council is stepping into a significant and systemic gap in the youth arts ecosystem. The Creative Youth Development Teaching Artist Fellowship Pilot Program supports teaching artists in Creative Youth Development (CYD) programs throughout Massachusetts through a series of group learning sessions, site visits, and grants.

Built on the model of the Music Educator and Teaching Artist (META) Fellowship, a partnership of The Klarman Family Foundation and Mass Cultural Council, this new pilot program covers all disciplines in the arts, interpretive sciences, and humanities. By balancing individual learning and artistry with the development of a tightly knit community of practice, the CYD Fellowship has immediate impacts in the classroom and long-term impacts for the field.

The new pilot program launched last week at Central Square Theater and was led by world-renowned teaching artist Eric Booth. Throughout the year, CYD Fellows will address identified areas of need in their work as teaching artists, including youth worker training and work in trauma-informed practice.

CYD Teaching Artist Fellows do an exercise with Eric Booth.
CYD Teaching Artist Fellows do an exercise with Eric Booth.

Participating teaching artists were nominated by the following organizations:

  • Actors’ Shakespeare Project
  • Artists for Humanity
  • BalletRox
  • Barrington Stage Company
  • Books of Hope
  • Cambridge Community Television
  • Central Square Theater
  • Community Art Center
  • Elevated Thought
  • Enchanted Circle Theater
  • Express Yourself
  • Hyde Square Task Force
  • Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA)
  • Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston
  • Medicine Wheel Productions
  • OrigiNation Cultural Arta Center
  • Partners for Youth with Disabilities
  • The Performance Project
  • Raw Art Works

Resources Available from META Fellowship Learning

Dr Bettina Love leading a session with META Fellows in 2018.
Dr Bettina Love leading a session with META Fellows in 2018.

The META Fellowship, a partnership between Mass Cultural Council and The Klarman Family Foundation, is the first program of its kind to convene a statewide community of music educators and teaching artists.

In an effort to make the learning of the Fellowship more broadly available, we are pleased to announce that the META Fellowship web site is now live. The site contains resources that were created to meet shared needs in classrooms throughout the Commonwealth and a list of professional development opportunities that Fellows utilized during the pilot program. As the second cohort of Fellows complete their Fellowship, more resources and tools will be added.

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Register for a Two-Part Trauma-Informed Practice Training

Riverside Trauma Center trainingJoin Mass Cultural Council for a two-part Trauma-Informed Practice Training with the Riverside Trauma Center.

The goal of this comprehensive two-day training is to prepare teaching artists and leaders in the cultural sector to deliver basic behavioral health disaster response skills to young people that have experienced trauma from large-scale disasters or critical events such as homicides, suicides, accidental deaths, and similarly distressing events. Participants will be presented with the evolution of efforts to assist survivors following trauma and provided with an overview of the human stress response and how it affects the choice of interventions with distressed individuals. The Post-Traumatic Stress Management (PTSM) continuum of interventions and the eight core functions of Psychological First Aid (PFA) will be taught.

The training comprises two 6.5 hour days.  Participants must commit to both days. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available.

Friday, October 18: Boston Children’s Museum
308 Congress St, Boston, MA

Saturday, October 26: Community Art Center
119 Windsor St # 6, Cambridge, MA

9-9:30am: Registration, coffee etc.
9:30am-12pm: Session time
12-1pm: Lunch
1-5pm: Session

The training is free and limited to two representatives  per organization.

For more information, contact Erik Holmgren at 617-858-2731.

Register Now

New Spending Plan Invests $1.6M in Creative Youth Development

Performers in Barrington Stage's Playwright Mentoring Project take a bow
Performers in Barrington Stage’s Playwright Mentoring Project take a bow

Mass Cultural Council recently released a spending plan for the new fiscal year that will invest more than $1.6 million in creative youth development, increasing investments in national model programs, providing grants for youth-led projects, and expanding support for teaching artists.

This year we are funding 74 programs through YouthReach and SerHacer; and will continue to support Amplify, a groundbreaking program that provides grants to young people for youth-led projects throughout the Commonwealth; the META Fellowship; and the Johnson String Project, which is dedicated to ensuring that all students in El Sistema-inspired programs in Massachusetts have access to high quality string instruments.

We will also be launching a new Teaching Artist Pilot Program, based on an internationally recognized professional development model created here in Massachusetts.

Creative youth development unleashes the potential of young people as creators, leaders, and architects of a better world. Creative youth development programs empower youth to explore their identities in a safe place, find their voice, and map their future.

Together our support of young people, teaching artists, and organizations empowers new voices to be heard in the cultural and civic conversations of the Commonwealth.

“When we support creative youth development, we are supporting the generation who will shape our world,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director.

What does this support look like? Here are just a couple of examples:

  • The Community Music School of Springfield has successfully engaged with the public schools to bring music and the arts to every Springfield school for the first time in a generation.
  • In Lawrence, Elevated Thought actively serves and develops communities through youth empowerment curriculum, beautification projects, youth organizing, and public outreach.
  • The Playwright Mentoring Project at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield is giving voice and opportunity to young people to tell their stories and create theater experiences.
  • GreenRoots is empowering and engaging youth voices on environmental justice issues in Chelsea.
  • At Enchanted Circle Theater in Holyoke, DCF involved youth are telling their stories through original plays and productions.

Read about the development of our Creative Youth work.

Welcome Käthe Swaback!

Käthe SwabackWe are please to announce that Käthe Swaback has joined Mass Cultural Council as a Creative Youth Development Program Officer. Käthe comes to us after more than 20 years as the Program Director of the nationally-recognized CYD organization, Raw Art Works. Her work at Mass Cultural Council will be focused on a new initiative connecting the arts and health, in addition to supporting the Creative Youth Development portfolio.