Charge up for the new year. On January 16, 2014 Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion hosts La Lengua del Poder (The Language of Power), a showcase of young people freeing their voices through visual art, theater, music, movement, and poetry. Free. 6-9pm. Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, 85 West Newton St., Boston. Part of the YouthReach 20th anniversary celebration.
Massachusetts high school students are invited to submit a 30-second video promoting the school breakfast program and encouraging their peers to eat a healthy school breakfast. Gift card prizes (to be spent on a classroom or out-of-school program) up to $1,000 will be awarded. Submissions will be accepted March 3 – April 4, 2014. Contest rules and tips available now. Sponsored by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Project Bread, and managed by the Child Nutrition Outreach Program.
Luis Sanchez, then (2008, age 14) and now (age 23). Luis danced with Ritmo en Accíon, a dance troupe sponsored by Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain, MA, for 3 years beginning in 2005. Recently, Harvard Graduate School of Education student Lisa Yolansky had an opportunity to sit with Luis as he reflected on his years with Ritmo “back in the day.”
Lisa: How did you get so involved in Ritmo en Accíon?
Luis: I used to take classes at the Brookline Community Center, and one of the people I loved taking classes with was the Ritmo en Accíon choreographer, Burju Hurturk. She asked me to join Ritmo, which was just around the corner from my house. Over time my involvement got bigger. I actually got to perform at the White House and at a Red Sox game.
How did the opportunities to dance at the White House and at Fenway impact you?
We were like, “Wow, we are actually important. We are really doing something huge.” I think that really made me feel like I could accomplish anything, and that I could accomplish something with dance even though not everyone felt like dance was that important.
Wasn’t the work at Ritmo viewed as important?
Yes and no. A lot of people undervalue the arts and the aid the arts give. Specifically to teenagers, you know? During my teenage years, everything was awkward, and I don’t think people realized how much stability the dancing gave me.
What have you been doing since graduating high school and leaving Ritmo?
I have a lot of projects going on, but my work at Charlestown Community Center is what I am most excited about. It brings back memories of what I got as a high school student out of Ritmo en Accíon and what I can have the teenagers I’m working with get out of my program. I am one of the dance coordinators and I’m working with other young people to establish a range of arts programs. That way we can build the students’ skills and tell the community, “This is what your young people can do.”
You said you want your students to get similar things out of your program as you got out of Ritmo en Accíon. What things did you get from your work in the arts?
The thing that Ritmo en Accíon did very well was providing us with an art that we loved, but also showing us that we had to work hard, have discipline and be responsible—that we can get good results for the effort that we’re putting in. And that carries over to school because if you put in that same kind of effort you’ll get good grades, get scholarships, etc. It was also really great to be a youth member of Hyde Square Task Force and to go out and do something for the community—teach classes, paint peace signs, and just being able to use my passion to help other people.
Do you have any advice for people working with youth in the arts?
Always take the opinions of the youth members seriously. Even though [the program leaders] have the broader prospective, the youth have the inside scoop on how to make it better and on what they want to get out of it.
What do you want policy makers and funders in the arts to know?
I want them to know that in arts programs in general, there are so many benefits. The United States in particular is really missing out on using the arts. All these other countries are using the arts to prevent crime, increase motivation, and so on. We are missing out because in the U.S. people say, “oh, it’s just an arts program” instead of looking at the powerful good the arts do.
TEDxBoston’s 2013 website posed a single, provocative question: “Where do you go for inspiration in Boston?” The organizers answered their own question by turning to Artists For Humanity (AFH), commissioning the youth-driven studio to develop an innovative take on the TEDx “X”. From initial concept meetings with the client through design and final execution, the process at AFH was characteristically youth-led and professional.
Käthe Swaback, Program Director at Raw Art Works in Lynn and Project Leader of the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project, is about as enthusiastic about logic models and quantitative assessment as anyone I know. (She’s even more enthusiastic about measurement than I am!) Recently, Käthe shared with me here renewed passion for finding ways to measure joy and engagement in young people who participate in arts, humanities, and science learning programs afterschool. She reminded me that “nearly half of high school dropouts in the nation report quitting school due to boredom. …. Seems like a lot of research has gone into assessing sadness and anger, but joy and passion?”
Here is Käthe’s ode to finding ways to measure joy and engagement:
They seem to find it easy to take a ruler to my sadness
Aren’t afraid to confine my mental madness
And yet my joy, my joy they say is not worth measuring?
They can quantify my syntax but cannot see my passion?
We become so willing to deny our native tongue,
We are told that a fork looks enough like a paintbrush, so paint with it.
Our songs are dissected into crumbs that tumble to the ground
Those numbers cannot seem to define us, bind us, or even find us at times,
But the metaphor knows more than the poet
And can address, access, and undress in an instant.
For the arts unlock the well-worn slammed-shut doors
And, like the smell of your mamma’s pancakes
Wafting through the cracks in the walls,
Your songs, paintings, and plays
Invite us to awaken, to engage, to connect
To the then and the tomorrow,
And shouts of the NOW of today
We know we know we know
With our whole being
With the same skill that tunes a C sharp
And can see the difference between turquoise and teal
We need to be able to describe the excitement in the eye of Marcus
As he reaches for that note and holds it.
Shayla, with charcoal all over her face,
Renders her hand on paper, deeply seeing every line,
And falls in love
With that pulse that beats in the in-betweenness of things.
We know we know we know
With our whole being
Let us ignite, unite, and fight
With resonant songs
That sing the stories with precision greater than numbers profess
A vibrant but often silent language
Holding the heart-thumping humanness
That recognizes that grin
From ear to ear
– Käthe Swaback 2013
Harvard Medical School professor George Vaillant points out that, “negative emotions help us to survive individually; positive emotions help the community to survive. Joy, unlike happiness, is not all about me—joy is connection.” Kathe eloquently cautions us about being seduced into measuring things that are easy to measure or bullied into measuring things that others say are important. We need to continue to struggle to find ways to measure what is truly important, to our programs and more importantly, to our young people, to our communities, and to their success.
This video, I Am A Muslim, was produced by teens in Cambridge Community Television’s Summer Media Institute in July of 2013. It explores Muslim stereotypes and what it is like to be a Muslim in Cambridge, MA. Produced by: Iman Gheraissa, Avery Guan, and Liam O’Connell.
Art Reach at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the Boston Children’s Chorus were each presented with a 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony in the in the White House’s East Room on November 22. The award is the nation’s highest honor for outstanding after-school and out-of-school programs.
- Art Reach at Provincetown Art Association and Museum is a free, multidisciplinary afternoon immersion program providing substantive arts and humanities education for youth aged 13 years and up.
- Boston Children’s Chorus provides intense choral training and performance opportunities in order to harness the power and joy of music to unite Greater Boston’s diverse communities and inspire social change.
Art Reach and the Boston Children’s Chorus were among 50 exemplary programs across the country selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) as National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards Finalists. Two other Massachusetts programs – Project STEP and True Colors: Out Youth Theater at the Theater Offensive – were also selected as finalists. In the 16-year history of the awards, 37 Massachusetts organizations have been recognized, including 21 national winners. MCC is proud to support these organizations through its YouthReach Initiative and other grant programs. Read the full press release.
Teens at Urbano are busy preparing their winter exhibition, Urban Myths + The Dream Machine, which opens December 17, 2013, 5:30-7:30 pm. This is the second exhibition of their yearlong theme, “The Emancipated City: Reimagining Boston,” and will showcase art combining video, performance, installation, and sound, all created by young artists in partnership with their teaching artist mentors. This event is free and open to the public and will take place at 284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its YouthReach Initiative with a series of events that culminate in a national agenda to propel the field of creative youth development into the next decade. In March the agency will host a national summit, in partnership with the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities and the National Guild for Community Arts Education, that brings the best and the brightest working at the intersection of the arts, culture and youth development to Boston. Leading up to the summit MCC will also hold regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts beginning this evening with a youth showcase at the Museum of Science, Boston. And today we launch a this new blog, Seen & Heard, where we will tell stories of young lives transformed through creativity and of the skilled practitioners who made those stories possible.
On my way to the first day of SLAMCAMP, I had plenty of time to doubt myself. What if the kids don’t like me? What if I can’t control their behavior? I’ve never actually slammed before… how exactly am I qualified to teach it? What if nobody shows up? What will I do if someone says something problematic? How am I going to do this by myself? By the time I arrive, I am an emotional mess. I take a deep breath, set up the room, and wait.
– SLAMCAMP creator Crystal Hope Garrity from her teaching journal
Over the past two decades, a network of seasoned administrators, managers, and teaching artists has been cultivated, and it is a great privilege to work with these colleagues. But it is equally important for the field, and a joy for me personally, to come across new and emerging leaders, as well. One such rising star is Hampshire College senior Crystal Hope Garrity. In the summer of 2013, Crystal secured a Community Partnerships for Social Change grant from Hampshire to run a slam poetry camp through the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams, MA. Following is her reflection on the experience:
SLAMCAMP was simply the best thing I could have done with my summer.
Running SLAMCAMP was an intense learning process for me. I had to apply for the grant by making a budget and creating goals for the program. I wrote the curriculum and planned out the snacks and transportation and guest poet workshops. I also had to make a case that the program was designed to bring about social change. But the most terrifying part for me was the actual facilitation of the program. I’ve always been the second-in-command, the support. This time, I was the one in charge of everything and the person keeping the whole program running smoothly, and at first I was quite doubtful of my ability to do so. But I will never forget how relieved I felt when the young poets came bursting through the door that first day. Their excitement filled up the entire room.
Ten young women participated in SLAMCAMP. They all come from working class or poor families. A few had experienced life in the foster care system and homelessness. They all had beautiful tales to tell and songs to sing.
The program culminated with our participation as poets (not “youth poets” but “poets”) in Pittsfield’s WordXWord Festival poetry slam, and the night of the preliminaries was the best! We were in it together. The girls laughed and cried and shook in fear together. They slammed together and cheered louder than anyone in the audience for not only each other, but the other poets that they were competing against. Elizabeth’s poem, “Mapping Out Vaginas For Boys,” received so many laughs after every line that it put her over the three-minute time limit. Skye made it to the semi-finals with her touching poem that got a high score from even the toughest judge. I watched Jeannette’s entire face light up when her favorite poet, Jon Sands, gave her a hug and told her how much he loved her piece. It is moments like that that make the program truly worth it.
Thanks, Crystal, for sharing your experience—and welcome to the network. We are glad you are here!
Crystal Hope Garrity discovered her love of education and creative writing at the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School in Adams, MA. She is currently a senior at Hampshire College concentrating in Poetry, Photography, and Education and interns for the Youth Action Coalition in Amherst.