Imagine a future without the arts generating vibrant communities, shaping culture, and pushing boundaries. Is this the stuff of dystopian novels? Or is this what we’re becoming right now? The current administration’s budget plan eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and this could very well become a reality. Thousands of programs and projects could lose their funding, all of which bring art to rural and urban Americans, and many of which bring art to those who arguably need it the most – young people.
Arts Corps reaches over 2,500 K-12 students in South Seattle and South King County each year. Approximately 80% or our students are youth of color and 70% come from low-income families. Arts Corps is a force for justice in a region where race is greatest predictor of whether a young person has access to an arts education. Our programs are proven to foster creative and critical thinking skills as well as sense of belonging, connection and mindsets for learning. Evaluation also indicates that Arts Corps students are more engaged in school and test better in reading and math, an important contribution to closing the achievement gap.
In past years, Arts Corps has received NEA funding for our teen programs. These art classes and leadership trainings make space for the next generation of young artists to cultivate artistic skills while honing capacities for community leadership and cultural work. Our teen leaders agree that these programs develop their understanding of systems of oppression, help them create deeper connections to local social justice movements, and provide a safe and supportive community where they can authentically express themselves. Carlynn Newhouse, a teen artist and youth leader reflected on her experience with Arts Corps programs:
“At the age of fourteen I was so broken and sad with little direction in life. Arts Corps’ program Youth Speaks gave me the support system and tools to become a strong leader, organizer, artist, activist, and human being. This dynamic organization not only grows youth into artists, but into passionate change makers. They cultivate space for marginalized groups and individuals in need of safety and support. They are amazing employers, coworkers, and mentors, but most importantly I am very blessed to be able to call them my family. I give Arts Corps, Youth Speaks, and its staff credit not only for shaping me as an artist and activist, but for giving me a new found passion for life.”
Art isn’t a want for youth, it’s a need. Arts Corps is one of many youth arts organizations around the country that knows this and lives by it. It is a sad day when this country tells our young people that the arts don’t matter because it is telling them that what they need doesn’t matter, that what inspires their passion is not a priority. It tells them, in essence, that they don’t matter.
At Arts Corps, we believe that youth matter and that the arts have the power to give youth a deepened belief in their own capacity to learn, take risks, persist and achieve.
In the spirit of creativity and community,