Coming Up Taller. Published by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Americans for the Arts. Available on-line at http://www.cominguptaller.org
Teenagers constantly struggle with issues of who they are and how they fit into the broader community and culture around them. The arts can help them make sense of their identity and world.
Creative art activity allows the adolescent to gain mastery over internal and external landscapes by discovering mechanisms for structure and containment that arise from within, rather than being imposed from outside. The artistic experience entails repetition of actions, thoughts or emotions, over which the adolescent gains increased tolerance or mastery. While providing a means to express pain and unfulfilled longings during a distinct maturational phase, the arts simultaneously engage the competent, hopeful and healthy aspects of the adolescents' being. (Coming up Taller, http://www.cominguptaller.org)
The number of local arts agencies in the 50 largest U.S. cities with arts programs for youth at risk increased from approximately 20 percent in 1986 to 82 percent in 1997 (United States Urban Arts Federation 1997, Americans for the Arts). Following along this tren
Youth Arts Development Project. (1995) Regional Arts & Cultural Council in Portland, Oregon, Fulton County Arts Council in Atlanta and the City of San Antonio Dept. of Arts & Cultural Affairs with Americans for the Arts. Online at: http://www.americansforthearts.org/youtharts/
BACKGROUND & PURPOSE
In 1995, the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities enlisted Americans for the Arts to survey over 600 arts-based programs for at-risk youth. They found that, while there were myriads of "success stories," there was a lack of statistical evidence that these programs truly increased youth achievement. Consequently, Americans for the Arts, alongside the Regional Arts & Cultural Council in Portland, Oregon, the Fulton County Arts Council in Atlanta and the City of San Antonio Dept. of Arts & Cultural Affairs, created a consortium called the YouthArtsDevelopment Project to conduct research on arts programming for at-risk youth which has led to an online toolkit for implementing such programs.
The YouthArts Development Project had seven primary goals:
- to define the critical elements and 'best practicise' of arts programs designed for at-risk youth;
- to design and test program evaluation methodologies;
- to conduct a rigorous evaluation of three pilot sites of the impact of arts programs on adolescent behavior and the risk and protective factors associated with behavioral problems and delinquency;
- to design and test models of professional development and training that prepare artists to work with at-risk youth and that prepare artists, social service staff, juvenile justice professionals, and educators to work collaboratively in developing and implementing arts programs for at-risk youth;
- to strengthen collaborative relationships among local and federal partners;
- to disseminate 'best practice' models to arts, social service, and juvenile justice program providers nationwide;
- to leverage increased funding for at-risk youth programs.
In order to meet these goals, YouthArts:
- conducted a field scan of the literature on arts-based youth programming;
- interviewed members from model programs across the country to identify "best practices;"
- facilitated focus groups with artists and social workers in each of the three cities in the YouthArts project;
- reviewed the juvenile justice literature on risk- and protection-focused prevention and intervention which became the foundation of the YouthArts approach: to develop programs that are designed to reduce risk factors, while increasing protective factors.
- from this knowledge, each art agency in the project either designed and implemented a new program for at-risk youth or modified an existing one - all of this was done as colalboratively as possible, with and through existing organizations and programs;
- each site collected data to support a national evaluation of its programs' effects on participants' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
Through their evaluations, YouthArts revealed that the arts really have a positive impact on youth. In addition to enhancing young peoples' attitudes about themselves and their futures, the programs can also increase academic achievement and decrease delinquent behavior. (A follow-up evaluation is being conducted to determine if the programs have a lasting impact on youth participants).
The YouthArts Development Project originally printed their findings and created a toolkit in print form which is no longer available. Consequently, they created a website http://www.americansforthearts.org/youtharts/about/ to make the toolkit available to the public. They describe the purpose of the website as follows:
Several existing publications do an excellent job of describing the achievements of arts programs designed for youth at risk,
and information on artist training recently has been published as well. However, arts agencies, juvenile justice agencies, social
service organizations, and other community-based organizations need more detailed information about how to plan, run,
provide training, and evaluate arts programs for at-risk youth. The materials in this toolkit are designed to help. The toolkit
contains the many lessons learned in Portland, San Antonio, and Atlanta about establishing, maintaining, and evaluating arts
programs for youth at risk.
The website is divided into four main components based upon their research from the three sites on implementing arts programs for at-risk youth: 1. Program Planning; 2. Team Training; 3. Evaluation; 4. Costs, Resources, & Advocacy. (They note that these four elements are not in sequential order and occur simultaneously in any organization.) In addition, the website includes a section on "best practices," a "glossary" of terms used, and an "appendix" of relevant documents from the site research.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION & DISCUSSION
- Do you find this website helpful? What would you do to improve it? (Email them any suggestions for ways to improve their site)
- In your opinion, what is it about the arts that would help turn a troubled life around?
- How might you incorporate an arts element into a youth program you run based on the websites' models? What obstacles might you face?
- Because of their ability to heal and empower at-risk youth, the arts should be included in programming for at-risk youth.
- Collaboration is essential; we need to work holistically in order to turn troubled lives around.
- Using a planning model (an interactive and proactive planning tool that promotes collaboration) is a great way to implement a project.
- Team training is a vital way to get all the collaborative partners on the same page.
- Outcomes-based planning and evaluation is key to long-term success though often costly.
- Running arts-based programs for at-risk youth is expensive and labor-intensive but well worth it in the end.
Christen B. Yates cCYS
d, along with the continued increase of youth classified as “at-risk,” this report describes how the community organizations are utilizing the creative experience of the arts and humanities to work with at-risk youth across the United States
The 218 arts and the humanities programs examined in this study were identified by a broad range of organizations and agencies: the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the American Association of Museums, Project CO-Arts at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Recreation and Parks Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum Services and approximately 90 other public and private agencies that work with youth. These agencies include arts organizations; national arts and humanities service groups; national networks of community institutions such as Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, museums and parks; national youth and social service agencies; foundations and government agencies. Each of the 600 identified programs was screened to select those working primarily with at-risk children, offering sustained arts and humanities programs outside of the school curriculum. In addition, the selected programs focus on youth development through the arts and the humanities as one of their expressed goals.
Staff at the programs that met these criteria were interviewed at length, providing the basis for the program profiles in Chapter Six. The interviews collected the following information:
- Why a program was created
- What arts and humanities activities are offered
- What community conditions and resources exist
- Who the program serves
- How services are delivered
- Whether staff, including artists and scholars, are trained
- Who the program's partners and supporters are
- What the impact is on participants
- How effectiveness is measured
The conclusions about what makes programs effective are based on these interviews and on visits to nine sites:
- The Artists Collective, Inc., Hartford, Connecticut
- Educational Video Center, New York, New York
- Experimental Gallery: Arts Program for Incarcerated Youth, WashingtonState Historical Society, CapitalMuseum, Olympia, Washington
- The 52nd StreetProject, New York, New York
- Japantown Art and Media Workshop, San Francisco, California
- Kaleidoscope Preschool Arts Enrichment Program, SettlementMusicSchool, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Read With Me: Teen Parent Project, Vermont Council on the Humanities, Morrisville, Vermont
- Teen Project, Center for Contemporary Arts of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Working Classroom, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico
The findings from the 218 profiles reveal a growing movement of grassroots community arts organizations that are providing safe havens for at-risk youth, primarily in the afterschool hours when most teen violence occurs. These organizations touch the lives of an estimated 88,600 youth each year. While they reach children of all ages, 92 percent of the programs work with teens. Seventy-two percent of the programs also serve 6- to 12-year-olds, and 24 percent assist preschoolers. Most were started in the mid-80’s by combinations of artists, art and cultural organizations, educators, social workers, youth workers and church leaders. Programs cover the array of art and humanities, from painting to drama to videography to reading the classics. Many incorporate, either formally or informally, life skills, job training or academic tutoring. They serve anywhere from 12 youth to 2,000 with the median around 100 and the average, 400. The average number of staff is 3.5, accompanied by a couple dozen volunteers and a handful of consultants (usually professional artists). Training for staff usually occurs informally in-house. With average budgets around $150,000, nearly half receive funding from federal sources.
This study found that the most effective programs maintain a unique balance between structure and
flexibility, building creatively upon familiar, solid foundations. Successful programs focus on specific arts and humanities disciplines without ignoring broader child developmental areas. These programs work with parents while safe-guarding independent relationships with the children. Finally, they take advantage of the particular perspectives of local artists and humanists.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSI
- Why are art programs often overlooked in youth work?
- What advantages do art programs have over other youth programs (sport, academic, religious)? Also, how could such programs be improved by the addition of art?
The arts are indeed an essential tool for working with youth. Youth workers cannot ignore the power of the arts to provide a safe and engaging context for youth to develop. We should look for ways to add the arts to existing programs, or to start new ones in collaboration with existing programs.
Christen B. Yates, cCYS.