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National Summit on Creative Youth Development. Unite. Celebrate. Activate.

March 18, 2014

Efforts to Develop Youth Creativity Produce “Ripple Effects” that Benefit Communities
New Research Sets Stage for Boston Summit to Advance Emerging Field of Creative Youth Development

(BOSTON, MA) – Out-of-school programs that develop the creative capacities of young people are uniquely positioned to drive civic and social progress in their communities, according to new research. The research report, “Setting the Agenda,” is drawn from surveys of more than 150 youth arts, humanities, and science programs nationwide.

“Today, youth are increasingly becoming disconnected from their communities and the means to make a successful transition to adulthood,” the report states. “At the same time, creativity is growing in its importance to addressing changing economic, social, technological, and environmental challenges. In this context, creative youth development programs are an asset, and supporting and increasing their impact is of great importance.”

“Setting the Agenda” was commissioned in advance of the National Summit on Creative Youth Development by the Mass Cultural Council, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and National Guild for Community Arts Education. The organizations are partners in presenting the Summit, which takes place in Boston March 27-29. The research was conducted by Dr. Lauren Stevenson of Junction Box Consulting in Oakland, CA.

Young people learning through the arts, humanities, and sciences develop personal, social, and intellectual skills and capacities that are important for healthy growth and success in life, school, and work. They also use these disciplines as means to understand and change the world around them, to connect to the human experience, and develop and express their sense of identity.

Moreover, the report states, youth programs grounded in creative expression “bring the tools of the arts, humanities, sciences, and youth leadership to bear to facilitate community development—improving the safety and physical and cultural contexts of the communities they serve—and foster civic engagement. By contributing to social change and community development and increasing society’s creative capacity, they are creating ripple effects that extend their impact more widely.”

To have greater impact, however, the report recommends that creative youth development leaders:

  • Align their work more closely with broader community development and youth development efforts.
  • Seek new funding structures, systems, and streams.
  • Establish a new entity or entities to advance the field’s strategic objectives at the state and national levels.
  • Join cross-sector collaborations at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Focus greater attention on “opportunity youth”—ages 16-24—who are disconnected from their communities and educational and career opportunities.

These recommendations will be the foundation for work at the National Summit, which takes place at multiple venues in Boston beginning March 27. The Summit marks a coming of age for the field of creative youth development. Knowledge about this work is growing, and a national community of practice is emerging. Efforts to build the field, however, are nascent and decentralized.

In response, the Summit partners have brought together leaders of nonprofit organizations in the arts, sciences, and humanities—along with funders, policymakers, advocates, and youth—to celebrate the field’s progress, document its impact, and chart a policy agenda for the next decade.

Their goal: to extend the collective impact of creative youth development on young people, their families, and their communities by focusing stakeholders—programs, funders, academics, policymakers, and business leaders—on common priorities.

Summit participants include diverse practitioners working in both traditional art forms and new media, seasoned professionals and emerging leaders. Plenary sessions will be simulcast via the web, and virtual attendees can participate in deliberations via social media. Attendees will also attend a live taping of the acclaimed NPR youth music program From the Top in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Calderwood Hall.

Learn more about participating virtually in the Summit.

The National Summit Partners:

Summit partners logos

The Mass Cultural Council promotes excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. Mass Cultural Council is a state agency committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. It pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities and artists. Mass Cultural Council receives an annual appropriation from the state Legislature and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. Since 1994 Mass Cultural Council’s YouthReach Initiative has funded rigorous programs that bring substantive out-of-school arts programs to young people in need—youth at risk of not making the successful transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Through YouthReach nearly $10 million has been granted to 120 organizations, reaching over 40,000 vulnerable young people, their families, and their communities.

The National Guild for Community Arts Education supports and advances access to lifelong learning opportunities in the arts. Among its national initiatives is Engaging Adolescents, which aims to increase youth participation in the arts by enhancing the effectiveness and scope of existing, high quality out-of-school time arts education programs and catalyzing the development of new programs. The Guild serves a broad constituency of more than 5,000 nonprofit, arts organizations, and government agencies in the United States that are providing open access to classes, lessons and workshops in multiple artistic disciplines. Many also are providing learning/development through the arts with a focus on youth development, community building, positive aging, and other areas. Of these providers, more than 450 are Guild members. They include community schools of the arts; arts centers; and arts education divisions of performing arts institutions, universities, museums, and other organizations. In concert with this dynamic network, the Guild researches and promotes best practices, provides opportunities for professional development and dialogue, advocates for broad access, and makes grants to the field. Collectively, Guild member institutions offer direct instruction to more than 2.5 million students each year, employ 20,000 teaching artists, and reach an additional 8 million Americans each her through performances and exhibitions. In addition to providing classes and lessons within their own facilities, most members also collaborate with public schools, social service organizations, hospitals, and other agencies to increase communities' access to arts education.

Created in 1982 by Executive Order, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. The PCAH works directly with the Administration and the three primary cultural agencies—National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)—as well as other federal partners and the private sector, to address policy questions in the arts and humanities, to initiate and support key programs in those disciplines, and to recognize excellence in the field. Its core areas of focus are arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and community revitalization. Mrs. Michelle Obama, like other first ladies before her, serves as honorary chairman of the committee, which is composed of both private and public members. The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards are the country's highest honor for out-of-school time arts and humanities programs that reach underserved youth. It is a signature initiative of the PCAH in partnership with the NEA, NEH, and the IMLS.


The National Summit and other YouthReach anniversary events are supported by a consortium of public and private funders, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Barr Foundation; ARTWorks for Kids, a program of the Hunt Alternatives Fund; the Slater Family Foundation; and the Linde Family Foundation. Presentation of Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs From Urban Youth and Other Experts is made possible by funding from The Wallace Foundation.

Media Contacts:

Greg Liakos, Mass Cultural Council

Heather Ikemire, National Guild for Community Arts Education
212-268-3337 x10

Kimber Craine, President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities

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