As our network and our nation face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, we know that the arts remain more vital than ever in keeping young learners engaged and enlivening us all. We are deeply proud of, and inspired by, the efforts of our affiliates as they navigate new realities and forge new and innovative ways of expanding student learning through the arts. The stories below demonstrate Young Audiences’ continued dedication to our core belief that, even and especially in challenging times, all young people deserve a well-rounded and arts-rich education.
Arts for Learning Indiana
At Arts for Learning Indiana (Arts for Learning), the push to make the arts accessible is now more imperative than ever. Young Audiences’ Indianapolis-based affiliate has been working diligently to develop and deliver innovative arts-integrated education programming to Indiana’s youth.
After the state’s governor issued a mandatory ‘stay-at-home’ order, Arts for Learning teaching artists wasted no time recording and performing from their homes and studio spaces. One inspired result, Take 5 with Arts for Learning, is a virtual series of 5-minute interactive segments featuring engaging, uplifting musical and visual art performances by teaching artists. These popular performances are streamed on Facebook Live, providing students with enriching creative arts experiences at home. To address the digital divide, Arts for Learning also created take-home instructional packets equipped to provide arts-integrated education and enrichment activities to students with limited internet access.
However, as schools remain closed for the foreseeable future, Arts for Learning is reaching out to the community with its Emergency Relief Campaign. In the spirit of ongoing resilience and innovation in the face of uncertainty, the organization is asking for donations to help support its important work ensuring that young arts learners are reached, engaged, and empowered throughout this critical period of time.
Young Audiences of Maryland
Last week Young Audiences of Maryland (YAMD) shared with us the important work it has undertaken in response to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Districts served by YAMD, Young Audiences’ Baltimore-based affiliate, include many schools receiving Title I funds earmarked for school-based family engagement activities. However, given the long-term school closures, these activities are, most crucially, without a traditional venue. Further, many students lack reliable internet access, presenting a barrier to traditional online learning tools.
Arts & Learning Snacks, the brainchild of YAMD Teaching Artist Matt Barinholtz, is a snack delivery service that aims to not only address the digital divide while imparting academic instruction, but also nurture the creativity and emotional wellbeing of students during this stressful stay-at-home period. Each snack will come with materials and instructions for building a kinetic sculpture, which students can create with their families at home. Currently, multiple sculpture-making kits have been developed for Baltimore City Schools, to be delivered to sites across Baltimore City, with anticipated expansion into other Maryland school districts.
In addition to forging innovative district-based partnerships that connect artists with students, YAMD aims to provide financial relief to its teaching artist roster by raising money through the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund. Through this campaign, and through YAMD innovation grants, donations and funding will go directly to YAMD artists like Barinholtz whose work has been impacted by mass closures and cancellations. "This ... is about supporting artists to be the valuable citizens that they are at this important time when we need to ‘reach and teach’ kids in different ways,” wrote YAMD President and CEO Stacie Sanders Evans. “Artists, like scientists, have the unique ability to imagine new possibilities, the curiosity to experiment, and the courage to try and fail.” YAMD is rallying to support its artists, engage Maryland students, and pursue its mission in new and creative ways.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, ArtsNow Learning (ArtsNow) provides arts integration professional learning and resources to schools and districts throughout the region. A cornerstone of the organization’s work is building innovative, customized solutions to meet the needs of each partner. This approach has helped ArtsNow hit the ground running while adapting to recent changes and new challenges in the wake of Georgia’s mandated statewide school closures.
With one of the organization’s longtime partners, Barrow County School System in Winder, GA, the ArtsNow team has been working hard to support teachers through the transition to distance education, utilizing arts integration techniques and strategies. During virtual planning sessions, ArtsNow consultants have been helping teachers troubleshoot ways of completing pending arts integrated lessons started in the classroom, while brainstorming innovative ways to engage students digitally through the arts.
Many teachers also plan to carry out weekly “arts for art's sake” lessons, taught through digital platforms, which rotate through art forms and give students the opportunity for the enrichment, movement, and creativity, which they may not have access to while away from their physical classroom. Their students are accustomed to having arts integrated classroom learning and now, more than ever, are craving outlets for artistic expression while learning from home. In addition to the curriculum content delivered by teachers, students looking for even more arts-integrated instruction have the opportunity to attend ArtsNow-facilitated lessons over Zoom. The first optional session, led by ArtsNow resident consultant Shannon Green, focused on visual arts and was attended by over 60 students!
ArtsNow continues to innovate teaching and explore ways to support teachers and engage students, whether they are in a classroom or behind a screen in their home.
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education
We recently shared the news of Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education’s (CAPE), teaching artists play an integral role in the organization’s practice of cross-disciplinary arts integration partnerships in public schools.
CAPE, YA’s Chicago-based affiliate, has led the way in its support of teaching artists. On March 16, CAPE made an extraordinary commitment to pay hourly teaching artists 75% of their rate in compensation for their loss of instructional time during the coronavirus school shutdown, pledging almost $100,000 from its organizational reserve fund to support teaching artists through the end of the 2020 school year
CAPE recognizes the essential role that teaching artists play in carrying out its mission. The organization strongly believes that its teaching artists deserve income security, and therefore put forward the compensation plan as a just act. The plan is also an invitation to other arts organizations to enter into a broader dialogue on how to demonstrate the value of cultural workers, especially in the most difficult of circumstances. “If we are indeed a network of mutually supportive educators and artists,” says CAPE Executive Director Amy Rasmussen, “then this is the only logical choice.”
Since the announcement was made, the organization’s teaching artists have sprung into action creating dynamic videos for CAPE’s Online Learning Hub, with topics ranging from music instruction and math to yarn art and cooking. Meanwhile, the organization regularly updates its online collection of resources for families to use during the shutdown.
CAPE is continuing to explore innovative ways to support its artists, students, and families, through both online learning and the distribution of art supply kits and printed instructional materials. The organization hopes its larger actions will resonate with others in different fields and walks of life, in the arts and beyond.
Young Audiences of Louisiana
New Orleans, LA
While faced with heavy times, Young Audiences of Louisiana (YALA) is working ardently to continue its programs in a manner that will support not only YALA teaching artists, but all of its New Orleans stakeholders and partners as well.
Mid-March marked a very significant change for students, families, educators, and artists in the Greater New Orleans Area, as Gov. John Bel Edwards announced statewide school closures. Despite these circumstances, YALA found itself uniquely positioned to make a positive impact on the New Orleans community, and build upon its previous work in the distance-learning arena, by extending its resources to the community at large.
Several funders worked quickly to assist in the revision of grant deliverables to allow YALA to shift many of its programs online, allowing the organization to compensate both salaried and contract teaching artists for work they expected to complete during the closures. Thanks to the generosity of The Helis Foundation, Institute of Mental Hygiene, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education, YALA is poised to produce extensive home-based and virtual lesson plans for students and early learners, crafted in partnership with educators and YALA teaching artists. Meanwhile, YALA Baby Artsplay!™ at Home will connect young children and their families to the online collections of local arts and cultural institutions, while also fostering cognitive and emotional development through the performing arts.
Additionally, YALA’s Art to Heart Workshops were designed to help New Orleanians through uncertain times brought on by major disruptions, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. These workshops allow families to assess the social and emotional well-being of their children, prepare educators to navigate new pathways toward learning, and simply bring the joy of art into homes across the city.
Due to high rates of limited internet access among local students, YALA teaching artists will work with educators at partner schools in Jefferson Parish to provide arts enhancement projects that teachers can easily share with all students. While the current circumstances were unimaginable one month ago, YALA is equipped with a spirit of undeniable resilience and innovation. YA’s New Orleans-based affiliate looks forward to the ways it can connect with its community in these nontraditional times.
Arts for Learning Miami
At Arts for Learning Miami (A4L Miami), the response to COVID-19 has been an ever-evolving process of outreach and action. At the get-go, through phone calls, surveys, and emails, YA’s south Florida-based affiliate reached out to all its partners, and to as many students and families as possible, to better comprehend and determine these groups’ needs.
A4L Miami found that the teens in its ArtWorks internship program wanted wholeheartedly to resume their work learning essential career skills while creating and performing art. As a result, the program was re-vamped – adapted to a digital format – and launched online last week. The same held true for the students at A4L Miami’s Lewis Arts Studio, a year-round studio-based program for middle schoolers. Likewise, after reaching out to families enrolled in the parks-based All Kids Included program (an inclusive, socially-oriented arts program for youth ages 6-17 with and without disabilities), A4L Miami learned that the children and families were eager to continue their Saturday classes virtually. In fact, A4L has yet to find a partner not interested in providing students with continued artistic engagement.
A hallmark of A4L Miami’s programming is the sense of community and belonging that the children experience. "We are doing our best to not let this fade,” says Executive Director Sheila Womble. “Sustaining a sense of community and social distancing do not need to be in opposition to one another. Our challenge is to find the meaningful ways to help children and youth remain connected.”
As the organization continues to re-imagine its on-site programs in a virtual format, A4L Miami is committed to upholding that sense of community, while continuing to deliver high-quality arts learning experiences. For example, in an after-school program run and managed by A4L Miami at a local elementary school, children identified as struggling readers will still receive ongoing,online support from their A4L Miami literacy instructors. The organization also plans to offer its arts lesson up to 3 times a week online, with “hangout times” facilitated by after-school counselors, so that the kids have a chance to catch up and share in small groups.
With much still under development, A4L Miami knows it will continue its work adapting and responding to the needs of its students and their communities.
Young Audiences of Massachusettes
As distance education becomes the new normal for students across America, Boston’s Young Audiences of Massachusetts (YAMA) is working with its partners and teaching artists to continue bringing arts learning to students of all backgrounds, talents, and abilities.
For students taking part in YAMA’s year-long expanded access residency programs, the statewide closure of learning centers last month left those residencies in progress and unfinished. That was the case for YAMA’s Expanding Horizons Through Music (EHTM) program underway at Horizons for Homeless Children’s early learning center. Focused on building literacy through music, the EHTM program aims to help close the kindergarten-preparedness gap for children in under-served, urban neighborhoods. EHTM typically serves kids experiencing homelessness or extreme poverty, engaging their families and teachers as well. While Horizons for Homeless Children works to support families in shelter at this critical time, YAMA’s dedicated teaching artist is adapting the program to continue reaching these preschoolers, utilizing the center’s virtual classroom on ClassDojo. This free platform is accessible from any device and provides the center’s teachers, students, and families with a way to stay connected and engaged in the learning process. By offering familiar songs, YAMA helps provide children and their families with much needed routine and comfort.
In the quest to make arts learning accessible from a distance, YAMA is dedicated to supporting and partnering with its roster of teaching artists, who have demonstrated tremendous resourcefulness in the face of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. While they work in tandem to develop new program offerings and delivery models, YAMA is bringing its teaching artist community together through Zoom meetings, as well as providing cloud-based collaboration spaces to help them share ideas, resources, and experiences. “We’ve heard from artists who have already experimented with live streaming, artists who are teaching online lessons, and artists who have yet to figure out the adaptation, but are eager to figure it out,” says YAMA’s Communications Manager Jason Rabin. “Our artists are excited to have a network with whom they can share tips and challenges.”
Meanwhile, the organization is embracing #ArtsLearningAtHome, sharing daily posts on social media and YAMA’s homepage providing resources, online learning content, and live streams with teaching artists, which offer a glimpse into their programs. With strong partnerships, a positive attitude, and ample creativity, YAMA continues to educate, inspire, and empower youth through the arts.
Arts Ed Collaborative
YA's newest affiliate, Pittsburgh-based Arts Ed Collaborative, is dedicated to partnering with educators to unlock the transformative power of the arts in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The organization serves a diverse network of educators and districts, each facing collective as well as individual challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading up to, and in the wake of, statewide school closures, Arts Ed Collaborative has focused on its relationships, meeting each partner where they are, and understanding their needs to offer tailored support.
To coordinate different aspects of its response and keep its collective impact moving forward, the Arts Ed Collaborative team stays connected virtually through weekly meetings on Zoom. The organization has turned to the same platform to shift its professional learning programs to a distance learning format, recently facilitating Zoom-based curriculum planning sessions centered on the National Core Arts Standards for Pittsburgh Public School teachers, as well as leading Pop-Up PLN (Personal Learning Network) sessions, hosted by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, which provide virtual opportunities for educators to explore new technologies and teaching practices.
As the full duration and impact of the COVID-19 shutdown remain unknown, Arts Ed Collaborative is planning ahead to ensure that its programs planned for the months ahead can move forward, regardless of circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Having just opened applications for its 2020 Leadership Academy scheduled for this summer, the organization is taking steps to make the program as accessible as possible, by offering scholarships to participants who need them, and by readying distance learning tools and digital resources to enable remote professional learning if necessary.
In the coming weeks, Arts Ed Collaborative is also stepping into an important new role to support teaching artists, a community suffering from a significant loss of income as a result of school closures. The organization is embarking on an innovative partnership with Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time and The Legacy Arts Project, made possible with support from The Heinz Endowments, to develop new work opportunities for teaching artists during this difficult time. Expected to roll out in mid-April, the initiative will offer a number of opportunities in phases over the coming weeks and months.
Arts Ed Collaborative remains committed adapting their work and forging new ways to support its partners, educators, and learners through the challenges ahead.
Center For Arts-Inspired Learning
Cleveland’s Center for Arts-Inspired Learning (CAL) remains dedicated to creating innovative learning experiences for students across Northeast Ohio. After a statewide stay-at-home order went into effect last month, CAL got to work helping its teachers, students, and their families adjust to the remote learning structure and experience. Among its objectives, CAL sought to give kids authentic, interactive opportunities to have fun and get creative from home.
CAL’s #ArtWorksChallenge, one such opportunity, is a 15-day cross-disciplinary arts project with daily quests that motivate kids to: Draw It + Make It + Write It + Speak It + Dance It + Snap It + Sing It + Share It. Participants are encouraged to be any type of artist they want. Each day, on its website and across its social media channels, CAL posts instructions and a video which helps guide students through new challenges.
To further support the program and promote arts integrated learning during school closures, CAL created printable packets of daily activities with prompts connecting literacy, science, math, engineering, health, leadership, and emotion. Designed to ignite learning and offer young scholars a constructive outlet, #ArtWorksChallenge packets include both solo and partner challenges, with a wide range of activities for different ages and grade levels. The packets also provide a list of common household items students can use for activities where supplies are needed, as well as resources for accessing free internet and computers available locally to eligible households with K-12 students.
Meanwhile, CAL Sprouts, the organization’s multi-arts program for preschoolers, has developed a variety of at-home resources that parents can use to support continuity of early childhood learning and kindergarten readiness. Additionally, CAL has put together an At-Home Arts Activities page featuring simple, inexpensive arts activities and exercises that enhance students’ ability to think creatively and succeed academically. Looking forward, CAL is working to build out online resources for its Level Up! after-school game design program, so students can stay engaged digitally while in-person sessions are on hold. It is also in the process of developing virtual concerts for schools and families, featuring CAL teaching artists.
CAL’s approach to stay-at-home learning balances strong curricular connections with student advocacy and social-emotional support. While staying committed to inspiring life-long critical thinking through the arts, the organization provides youngsters with welcome opportunities to make the most of their new learning environments.
Young Audiences of Western New York
For Young Audiences of Western New York (YA-WNY), spring is usually the busiest time of year, with teaching artists leading hands-on programs for youth and working side-by-side with educators all over the region. Though the COVID-19 crisis has made this spring anything but usual, the organization has been busier than ever working to make their art-integrated programs even more accessible to the community.
With YA-WNY’s teaching artists continuing on in nontraditional ways, the organization remains committed to enabling students to develop as creative and productive human beings, whatever their circumstances may be. The organization’s direct services and sustained collaborative work serve young people who struggle with mental health, substance abuse, disruptive family life, or legal troubles. Since 2011, YA-WNY has worked in partnership with the Erie County Departments of Mental Health and Youth Services to provide programming for youth within the restorative justice system. Recognizing the importance of continuing to reach these children and teens, especially in stressful and unsettling times, YA-WNY is collaborating with its teaching artists to help them lead virtual writing and literary residencies in secure and non-secure youth detention centers in Erie County. As part of a six-week residency program, YA-WNY teaching artists are also reaching youth at multiple Youth Empowerment & Leadership (YEL) sites. Through live virtual workshops focused on poetry, photography, creative writing, yoga, and mindfulness, these residencies aim to create meaningful connections between artists and young people who might not otherwise have access or exposure to the arts.
Through the Arts Partners for Learning (APL) initiative, YA-WNY is also offering professional learning opportunities in the digital realm, which are additionally serving as an important venue for teachers, artists, and cultural educators to network and connect from home. Part of YA-WNY’s Teaching Artist Social Series, teaching artist Gaitrie Subryan of Devi Bollywood recently led the first PD workshop, Step by Step: Building A Lesson Plan.
Especially in such uncertain times as these, YA-WNY believes strongly in the power of the arts to lift and empower communities. Partnering with other local arts and cultural organizations, this week YA-WNY celebrated WNY Arts Week to raise awareness of the importance of the arts, its impact, and the role of our creative professionals in the region. As shared in YA-WNY’s Arts Week announcement, “[w]e support the arts because we know they are a source of unity and healing for communities; they bring us together and force us to reckon with the big questions of our shared experiences. When we make it to this other side of this crisis—and we will make it to the other side—we’ll need the arts to help us repair.”
Young Audiences of Northeast Texas
Young Audiences of Northeast Texas (YA NE TX) uses the arts to change the world one student, one teacher, and one school at a time, and its commitment to that has not changed during these uniquely challenging times.
Each spring, the organization hosts the Arts In Education Awards, a festive evening event that honors Fine Arts teachers for teaching excellence in six categories (Lifetime Achievement, Rising Star, Distinguished Service to the Profession, and Arts Teaching Excellence at the Elementary, Middle, and High School levels).
With this year’s gathering off the table, the board and staff of Tyler-based YA NE TX, still committed to publicly celebrating this year’s seven honorees, turned to their community media partners at KETK-TV. Having already invested in the event by producing spotlight videos and lending their evening news anchor as an emcee, the local station was happy to make necessary modifications, going so far as to adapt the annual ceremony into a weeklong televised special. The celebratory program was incorporated into the station’s nightly Live at 5 broadcast.
2020 Arts in Education Award recipients were honored, one each night, in heartfelt segments followed by televised next-day Skype interviews on the KETK-TV's morning and daytime broadcasts. YA NE TX staff delivered the awards and accompanying checks to honorees, leaving them on doorsteps and cheering from a safe social distance. “These discipline-based arts teachers are the backbone of learning in the arts for our students,” says Executive Director Amy Baskin. “Supporting them with recognition and advocacy for their work complements our teaching artist-led workshops and residencies which build on that foundational arts learning with learning through the arts.” Links to artists’ recorded segments are available on YA NE TX’s Facebook page.
The organization’s professional development work has also shifted formats, with teaching artists leading workshops for teachers using Zoom. To underscore the critical importance of arts access for students, YA NE TX has added to its website an Arts from Home resource page, which spotlights teaching artists doing what they do best - whether that means giving ecosystems and arthropods new life (Science Up with the Singing Zoologist) or engaging students in the writing process through music videos (BabaGot BARS). As a tool for keeping students connected to arts integrated learning, the resource page is shared with teachers, students, and parents through social media, where they are also accessing their school-based curriculum. Following a very busy and exciting week (the Arts in Education Awards wrapped up on Saturday, April 18), YA NE TX looks forwarded to forging ahead with new ways to uplift its mission and signature initiatives.
Think 360 Arts for Learning
The current COVID-19 crisis has challenged Think 360 Arts for Learning (Think 360) to fulfill its mission in new ways throughout Colorado. While the Denver-based organization wholly recognizes that this is a challenging period of time for its artists, schools, teachers, and communities, it is also seeing creativity flourish everywhere as people quickly adjust to a changing reality. Likewise, Think 360’s programs team and teaching artists have innovated swiftly to create new and relevant programming.
The organization’s typical Creative Learning Labs are half-day, on-site professional learning workshops on a variety of topics catered to educators, teaching artists, and other arts education providers. Responding to the current needs and challenges facing arts educators, Think 360 held its first virtual Creative Learning Labs workshop on the timely topic of self-care. The Wellness Workshop, presented by teaching artist Andrea Moore, addressed the myriad challenges educators face and must manage through Colorado’s period of self-isolation and quarantine. The virtual session offered participants a space to discuss issues of wellness and inner capacity for building tools in response to these challenges.
The next Creative Learning Labs workshop, to be co-led by Think 360 teaching artist Andrea Asali and Denver Public Schools educator Katrina Hendrick, will focus on helping educators, artists, and administrators foster a culture of social justice within the groups they lead. Teaching Social Justice Through Music will explore how creating, listening to, and analyzing music can provide a lens to examine issues of social justice from a variety of angles. Both workshops will be available through Think 360’s YouTube channel.
As Colorado classrooms and communities transition to online learning, Think 360 teaching artists are poised to take the lead in creating high-quality remote art programs. To kick-start these efforts, Think 360 Arts announced its Teaching Artist Innovation Fund, which invites Think 360 teaching artists to create digital workshops for youth or adult arts learning. Together, Think 360 teaching artists hope to galvanize creativity in students while providing one another with valuable and meaningful support.
Springboard to Learning
St. Louis, MO
St. Louis-based Springboard to Learning (Springboard) is driven by its mission to develop young peoples’ abilities to think critically, create, collaborate, and communicate. With nearly 70% of students in its programs defined by state guidelines as economically disadvantaged, the organization has a strong commitment to serving children who might not otherwise have access to cultural enrichment opportunities. When Missouri announced statewide school shutdowns, Springboard’s subsequent actions were deeply embedded in its mission: thinking critically and creativity, it sought out meaningful collaborations, not just within its communities, but across the Young Audiences network as well.
During last month’s call among Young Audiences network leaders, Springboard Executive Director Cathy Hartmann learned of Arts & Learning Snacks, a program developed at Young Audiences of Maryland (YAMD) which distributes interactive arts-making and assembly kits to students at meal sites across Baltimore. The concept resonated with Hartmann, who brought the idea back to her staff. One of Springboard’s greatest concerns is centered around reaching St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) students on the other side of the digital divide – those that might not have reliable access to internet or other technology necessary for digital learning. “After city schools closed, our first instinct was to ask ourselves, what about those kids who don’t have access to digital learning?” said Marketing & Development Manager Lauren Wiser. “So when we found out about the Arts & Learning Snacks initiative in Baltimore, we were really excited to see how we could adapt it for St. Louis.”
Springboard enthusiastically reached out to YAMD, and the two YA affiliates collaborated to develop an offshoot of the program. Each kit includes activity materials, printed step-by-step instructions (in English and Spanish) for completing the project without internet access, and applicable fine arts standards addressed in the activity. To facilitate Arts & Learning Snacks locally, Springboard partnered with social services nonprofit Operation Food Search, the area’s largest distributer of free food. Through this partnership, Springboard is able to provide SLPS students and their families with 1,000 individual snack kits a week at meal distribution sites around the city. The organization hopes to extend operations through the summer months, bolstered by additional innovative partnerships.
Springboard has also been active in the realm of digital programming. Teaching artists have been submitting proposals for online arts learning material – whether brand-new or adapted from existing content – and the organization will soon begin the process of putting together a digital learning catalog. Springboard has already converted several of its signature programs to interactive digital formats, allowing the continuation of residencies that were booked before school closings.
In addition to addressing the current crisis, the expansion of digital programming also represents a means to reach as many students as possible, including those in rural communities without access to centralized, municipally-funded resources. This new focus on adaptable learning platforms will help the organization expand its reach into under-resourced regions in Southern Illinois and Missouri’s largely rural and impoverished southeastern Bootheel.
Through innovative and collaborative learning solutions, Springboard’s efforts are poised to have a lasting impact, throughout and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young Audiences of Northern California
San Francisco, CA
Young Audiences of Northern California (YANC) is committed to creating arts experiences that inspire young people, expand learning, and enliven communities. Having just celebrated its 60th Anniversary, the organization is proud to serve nearly 35,000 students throughout the Bay Area, relying on its dedicated roster of teaching artists and arts partners. In the wake of the coronavirus shutdown, YANC has been working to build a sustainable bridge to keep its teaching artist community and its school and after-school partners connected.
One aspect of this effort has entailed providing YANC’s partners with new distance learning opportunities. Since early and extensive measures to flatten the curve were implemented across the region, each school district has had to navigate the challenges of establishing its own distance learning norms, while considering important factors of equipment, equity, and accessibility. Now several weeks into of the shutdown, with the individual needs and challenges of districts becoming clearer, YANC is working to curate the appropriate programming for each partner. So far, common requests are for a combination of live experiences and recorded content.
The organization has developed a variety of at-home arts learning resources and services that assist the broader community of YANC family and friends. YANC's teaching artists are providing virtual programs and activities to share with school partners, parents, and students learning from home. Looking ahead, YANC is preparing to navigate a new summer school landscape. With the support of major school district partners, the organization is also exploring the possibility of offering an Arts Camp at Home.
Meanwhile, YANC is taking steps to provide resources and support to its teaching artists at this critical time. The organization established an Emergency Artist Fund, which supports artists directly by compensating for lost income during school closures. YANC is also offering socially distant opportunities for its teaching artists to meet and connect as a community. Through 90-minute virtual meet-ups, they will continue to convene throughout the shutdown period to brainstorm and share experiences and ideas virtually. Longtime YANC teaching artist Kirah Caminos reflected, “I am just so grateful and honored to be a part of YANC...watching the organization now grow through this specific, unprecedented challenge gives all us teaching artists even more resolve and reason to move forward and keep the performing arts platform moving for students, schools, and communities.”
YANC believes that the arts demonstrate the importance of interconnected roles – and believes that this, in turn, creates an idea of importance to the greater good which carries through all aspects of life.
Arts for Learning Virginia
In the wake of school closures brought on by COVID-19, Arts for Learning Virginia (A4L Virginia) is demonstrating resourcefulness, strategic agility, and an unwavering commitment to its students and teaching artists.
With more than 16,000 students in schools served by A4L Virginia directly impacted by school closures, the Norfolk-based organization’s staff had to think quickly on their feet. The small but solid team came together to confront the situation head-on. The challenges were complex, but the objective was two-fold: “We asked, how can we use the resources at our disposal to reach as many students as possible,” explained Chief Operations Officer Anna Heywood Green, “and, at the same time, create paid opportunities for teaching artists in our community – especially when opportunities are so scarce.”
What emerged from this conversation were the foundations of A4L’s "Take 10!". The program, which began production on March 24, makes arts learning accessible virtually to youth and families through live and recorded performances and workshops. Teaching artists were tapped to produce interactive segments – roughly 10 minutes in length – to engage students at home in dance, storytelling, musical performances, magic shows, bilingual yoga, and more.
This program was not without its own challenges. For one, many artists had little to no experience in the realm of video production, and it was new territory, too, for the organization. Through some trial and error, and with a determination to figure it out, the program team dove in. Arts and Education Manager Aaron Kirkpatrick made his video camera available, and he and Program Relationship Coordinator Aisha Noel worked together to develop new methods for formalizing production techniques, establishing quality control, and devising camera-ready lesson plans, all while following social distancing protocols.
Participating artists are awarded stipends for time spent recording their "Take 10!" segments, and will come away from the experience with video material to enhance their teaching artist portfolios. While these segments do not generate revenue for A4L Virginia, their ongoing production means that a broad segment of students can benefit from having access to quality arts learning content five days a week, throughout the remainder of the school year. “'Take 10!' is not a program of music, storytelling, or visual arts; it’s all of those things,” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s a little something for everybody, and it really speaks to the diversity of talent of our teaching artist roster.”
Local public institutions have taken notice of "Take 10!". A4L Virginia has already received requests for original programming from three different library systems and one school district in Eastern Virginia. “There’s the excitement of the possibility of being able to reach students better statewide through digital means,” Heywood Green said. “There’s a unique opportunity for people to see a nonprofit taking a step into a place that they’ve never been before. We’ve never been here before but we’re doing it for the students, we’re doing it for the artists.”
Despite its small size, A4L Virginia has no doubt that it will emerge from this period stronger, better equipped for the digital era, and more resilient than ever.
Young Audiences of Houston
Serving the nation’s fourth most populous city, Young Audiences of Houston (YAH) represents an expansive network of artists, educators, and community partner organizations. As it works to navigate unpredictable next steps, the organization is staying true to its core values of innovation, collaboration, and accessibility.
Following citywide school closures, which resulted in over 400 program cancellations through the end of the academic year, YAH established an Emergency Relief Fund for Teaching Artists. All funds raised will support teaching artists directly as they transition to new forms of learning, develop online lessons and programming, and expand arts-integration content for the 2020-21 school year. While helping to keep Houston’s vibrant arts community uplifted, the initiative also serves to support area youth, providing students and their families with quality arts-in-education resources during the current period of school closures and beyond.
One new resource is Arts for Learning Creativity Pops!, an online video series developed by YAH teaching artists, featuring activities that drive and inspire arts learning at home. With new content released on a weekly basis, viewers can enjoy a pop of creativity each day. Meanwhile, the commissioned videos provide income to teaching artists, demonstrating YAH’s unbreakable conviction that these talented individuals are essential to its mission, its students, and its city.
With city parks closed, YAH had to rethink its outdoor programming, and has been working with its parks partners at Discovery Green and Levy Park Houston to offer virtual and pre-recorded happenings. These performances and workshops span arts genres, and are led by YAH artists including Ana Maria Barcelo from the Houston Flamenco Collective, Andrew Karnavas of AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse, and Robb Brunson of iAct Theater Company.
Thanks to funding from the Harris County Department of Education and local foundations, YAH has partnered with the Houston Independent School District to facilitate remote learning through the arts, with teaching artists delivering online lessons to students. Additionally, as part of its Discovery Arts Initiative, YAH is expanding digital arts access to children with learning differences. This week, 20 YAH teaching artists participated in a partnership with Art Spark Texas – a nonprofit serving individuals will diverse abilities – to adapt specialized lessons and develop open educational resources, which will expand teaching artist offerings as schools reopen.
By continuing to offer support where it matters most, YAH remains at the forefront of arts education in Houston.
Kansas City Young Audiences
Kansas City, MO
As the original provider of arts education programs for children and youth in the Kansas City metropolitan area (and throughout Western Missouri), Kansas City Young Audiences (KCYA) serves approximately 100,000 students annually, offering many their first encounter with the arts. Typically, KCYA teaching artists visit schools, libraries, and community centers to deliver curriculum-aligned, arts-integrated workshops, performances, and residencies. Further, the organization’s Community School of the Arts (CSA) offers children a dynamic gathering place to learn, explore, and develop their own creative interests and talents. Like so many YA affiliates, KCYA was taken by surprise with the sudden cancellations and closures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its first thought was to focus on its teaching artists whose school programs and CSA classes were cancelled. KCYA surmised that between March 15 and mid-May, its artists lost a total of $58,000 in income. In response, the organization created the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund to assist those who lost specific bookings. Funds raised will be shared among the artists directly impacted.
In April, KCYA hosted a Facebook live event, Band Together, which featured 14 KCYA teaching artists performing and leading arts activities through the organization’s Facebook page. The day went remarkably well, according to Director of Marketing & Business Development Marty Arvizu, considering KCYA had never done anything quite like it before. Each artist was assigned a "set" time and announced their program to their own social networks. The artists made a direct request for donations, mentioning a matching grant of $10,000 from the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts.
During the event, in addition to raising crucial funds, KCYA gained more than 100 new online followers and had more than ten thousand minutes of video watched. Having artists perform under the official KCYA banner (which Arvizu admits was somewhat challenging) also provided the organization with great content to share with its audiences beyond the life of the fundraiser.
Looking forward, and building upon its recent online experiences, KCYA has kicked off a pilot session of virtual dance, music, theatre, and visual arts classes, with plans to offer summer programming virtually as well.
The organization’s staff remains committed to finding creative solutions to the challenges of distance learning, and its talented teaching artists are eager to contribute their passion, skills, and artistry to the larger effort. “As we support each other during this crisis,” said Arvizu, “we are confident that we will find ways to provide the arts education programs and creative outlets children need now, more than ever, for their health and wellbeing.”
Arts for Learning Connecticut
Each year at Arts for Learning Connecticut (AFLCT), over 100 teaching and performing artists serve in 60% of towns across the state, reaching students in schools, libraries, and community centers, and through other community-based engagements. Like many small nonprofits, Hamden-based AFLCT is doing everything it can to endure the current crisis’ financial implications – securing federal relief funding, reigning in expenses, and raising funds for its artists. It remains hopeful that it will be able to ramp back up once Connecticut schools reopen.
In the meantime, the organization is working diligently and innovatively to adapt its curricular-integrated programming to best serve students and schools during this period of distance learning. Staff members have been wearing multiple hats, and working in multiple capacities, and many AFLCT artists have been producing and sharing daily musical performances, dance recitals, visual arts lessons, stories, poems, and more. This content is shared through the organization’s social media platforms and video channels, including YouTube and Vimeo.
AFLCT has also been holding bi-weekly calls with its teaching artists to touch base on the relief programs and resources available to them. During these meetings, participants also discuss ways of connecting students to new arts learning resources. There has been much great brainstorming and idea sharing, and so far, several AFLCT artists have successfully delivered programming to students who are learning from home via their virtual classrooms. Many others have adapted their pre-existing programming to virtual formats.
In these extraordinary times, as it turns to web-based learning, AFLCT has found museum websites to be a tremendous resource for its teachers and parents. However, it has also discovered that finding ways to use these resources effectively as arts curriculum support can sometimes be a challenge. To address this issue, storyteller Tom Lee created an entirely new digital learning program, Museums of the World.
Lee is also a museum educator with extensive experience and a far-reaching knowledge of art resources from museums around the world. He will work with teachers to create customized “tours” of internationally-renowned museums’ online galleries, investigating images than can support and enrich at-home and online learning. The program includes a live-streamed interactive discussion as well as web-based resources created specifically for different schools, grade levels, and classrooms. With strong links to Social Studies and English Language Arts curricula, the possibilities are endless. Topics include: American History, Ancient Civilizations, Legends of the Middle Ages, The Life and Work of Charles Darwin, Chinese Poetry and Art, Classic Fairy Tale Illustrations, and The Origins of Hip-Hop.
AFLCT is happy to announce that, next week, it will be hosting a virtual concert fundraiser through The Great Give, a community-based fundraising initiative led by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. On May 5, a dozen AFLCT artists will join forces for this one-time event to share songs, stories, and performances for viewers of all ages, while offering some healing and artistic inspiration during these challenging times.
Young Audiences of Oregon and SW Washington
With the cancellation of the rest of the school year, and a great many programs left in progress and incomplete, Portland-based Young Audiences of Oregon & Southwest Washington (YA OR) has been busy working on creative solutions and alternatives.
When developing new distance-learning content, the organization knew it was important to first understand what its school districts were doing. After reaching out to districts, it found that the majority had elected to reserve live online instructional time for math and ELA subjects only. This meant that all other subject areas were consigned to pre-recorded formats, and shared out as optional add-ons. Responding to the requirements of its districts, YA OR began developing short-form online arts instruction videos and corresponding PDFs, as many students lack internet access and thus rely on receiving paper packets.
Fortunately for its teaching artists, the organization was able to reallocate funds to provide stipends, called Innovation Honorariums, to the artists creating these videos and PDFs. Once a sizable body of content has been amassed, YA OR will be reaching out to its network of teachers in the hope of offering important resources while deepening existing relationships.
YA OR is also offering a monthly series of Professional Development Workshops open not only to its own roster but to other local teaching artists as well. First in the series was the conversation-focused Limiting Liabilities as a Teaching Artist, which was led by two attorneys. Next up in the series is Arts and Science: Exploring the Depths of Integration, where participations will be encouraged to conduct hands-on experiments at home. Upcoming workshops include Trauma-Informed Care for Teaching Artists 101 and Self Care for Makers and Teachers.
At the same time, YA OR is working to spotlight its artists as they work independently, and the organization seeing an impressive array of formats and platforms from its artists. To aid these efforts, YA OR is sharing artist material through its social media, newsletters, and online Distance Learning Directory.
YA OR will also be holding its first-ever Virtual Gala on Thursday, May 7. The Broadway-themed event is free for everyone, and will feature performances by teaching artists and a personal story from a student who participated in YA OR’s Live SET, a program that trains teenage students in the art and science of sound engineering. In addition, the organization hopes to offer a creative alternative to its annual Run for the Arts,a spring fundraising jog-a-thon that has been helping bring arts programs to schools for over 40 years.
Despite the many changes and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, YA OR’s primary goal is to continue delivering quality arts learning experiences to young people. With kids experiencing massive changes to their lives, which may be difficult or scary for many, YA OR sees these programs as more critical than ever, believing strongly in the power of the arts to overcome fear, sustain hope, and carry us through.
Arkansas Learning Through The Arts
Hot Springs Village, AR
Based in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas Learning Through The Arts (ALTTA) provides high-quality arts learning programs that reach students throughout Central Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta. As the large majority of these students live in rural areas with high levels of poverty, often ALTTA programs provide the only exposure to art forms and creative learning opportunities that these students have. With this in mind, the organization’s primary focus has been on continuing to reach young people in rural and remote districts following the announcement that schools would be closed for the remainder of the year.
ALTTA was fortunate in that 80% of its in-classroom programming had been completed before the school closures. Even so, the organization chose to honor all contracts with artists for scheduled programming that could not be delivered in the classroom. ALTTA was asked to adapt several of its classroom residency programs to pre-recorded and virtually led classes. To pilot the process, a handful of artists were selected to develop video residency materials that inspire young people to learn through their art form. The videos were produced under the tutelage of an artistic director, with a videographer performing final edits.
According to ALTTA Executive Director Craig Welle, dance residencies have been especially effective at engaging students virtually, as they offer ample opportunity for students to engage with activities and movements modeled by the artists. In ALTTA’s poetry-writing residencies, teaching artists plan to use digital platforms that facilitate live interaction with the students as they write their poetry. Class sizes will remain at under 25, so that all students can actively participate in creating their poems and sharing them with classmates. ALTTA will apply what it learns from these pilot programs to additional residencies in art, music and theatre arts.
While the Arkansas Department of Education has been developing online resources for schools in collaboration with Arkansas’ local PBS station, these initiatives to not directly incorporate arts teaching and learning. Because ALTTA's programs integrate the arts into literacy and social studies curriculum, the organization will help fill an important gap in what is currently being offered. Likewise, the lessons being developed by ALTTA will serve both as a short-term and long-term resource for schools.
ALLTA had planned to hold its major friend and fundraising event, Poetry in Motion, as part of the area’s annual Arts and the Park arts festival. When the April event was no longer feasible, friends of ALTTA continued to rally in support of the organization’s existing programs and new delivery initiatives. Through its campaign, ALTTA was able to raise over half of the original event’s project fundraising goals. Further, the organization is pleased to announce that Poetry in Motion has been rescheduled to mid-October.
Arts for Learning San Diego
San Diego, CA
Arts for Learning San Diego (A4LSD) believes that the arts are a critical part of a child’s education and can also help during times of crisis and confusion. Now that schools in San Diego are closed, the organization is putting into practice everything it says an arts education fosters – innovative thinking, collaboration, and creative problem solving. Its staff has been working to ensure that children can still access arts content to uplift and focus their intellect, emotions, and energy.
Spring is typically the busiest time of the year for A4LSD, and, by way of distance learning, the organization has been able to continue its programming and finish out most of its contracts. A4LSD is continuing to serve local partner schools, including Rowan Elementary, a Title I school in the San Diego Unified School District. After school closures, dance teaching artist Kanna Burch began instructing students there virtually, meeting with 10-15 kids twice a week to teach them the basics of hip hop dance. She also teaches modified dance to special education children each week, and provides recorded content so that all students can keep up with their dance lessons.
Further, the organization is developing a new partnership with Girl Scouts San Diego. Through an online platform, scouts have opportunities to earn virtual badges by participating in different arts workshops and activities. This program has also allowed A4LSD up to reach girls from other parts of the country, as scouts can participate the organization’s digital programming if their local branch does not have a comparable offering.
A4LSD also remains committed to continuing to provide service and education to families connected to the military and some of the most vulnerable students – kids who are incarcerated, pregnant or parenting, or impacted by homelessness – in the Juvenile Court and Community Schools
The organization’s efforts have been praised in local news segments. “We want to continue to serve these kids, and we really believe in the power of the arts, especially at this time of uncertainty,” said Interim Executive Director Adrienne Valencia. “It’s a huge pivot for us, but if we don’t do it, who will?”
In support of these efforts, A4LSD was recently awarded five grants from the California Arts Council, which will fund programmatic residencies and performances as well as professional and organizational development.
During times like these, A4LSD still feels strongly that the arts and artists are essential community resources deserving sustained advocacy and investment. Through its innovative efforts and dedication, the organization hopes to connect people with one another, to deepen learning, and to provide safe and positive methods of expression.
Young Audiences of Abilene
Young Audiences of Abilene (YAA) brings together schools, communities, and professional teaching artists, creating programs that help make the arts an integral part of education for area students. Operating as part of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council (ACAC), home to the nation’s largest collection of outdoor sculptures based on children’s literature, YAA works in close partnership with the Abilene Public Library and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Abilene, Texas, is known as the “Storybook Capital of America” for its efforts to celebrate literary works for children. It is no wonder, then, that this aspect of Abilene’s identity is reflected in many of YAA’s partnerships, programs, and new initiatives under development.
With sudden school closures leading to program cancelations and lost income for many teaching artists around the country, YAA was very fortunate to have completed the majority of its in-school programs for the year. With only two weeks of instruction remaining on the calendar for YAA’s Art Shines, an arts-based intervention program for targeted students, and Arts Afterschool programs, the organization was glad to be able to compensate its teaching artists through the remainder of their contracts.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has posed greater challenges with regard to YAA’s plans to keep kids learning through the arts over the summer. Each year, a highlight of the organization’s summer programming is the free Summer Library Performance Series, featuring public programs delivered by YAA teaching artists in partnership with the Abilene Public Library. With the 2020 series canceled due to COVID-19, YAA is now exploring new ways to keep local youth engaged, while platforming the work of its teaching artists.
In the realm of fundraising, YAA has also had to switch gears. The organization hosts its annual signature fundraising event, Enchanted Storybook Café, each June in conjunction with ACAC’s Children’s Art & Literacy Festival (CALF). With CALF postponed until June 2021, YAA doubled down its focus on Abilene Gives, an online giving initiative to raise money and awareness for Abilene nonprofits. Thanks to generous donors, YAA was able to raise an incredible 138% of its fundraising target during the 24-hour giving event.
Looking ahead to next year’s CALF, ACAC has launched a yearlong celebration of children’s storybook author and illustrator Loren Long. YAA looks forward to helping plan and facilitate the celebration’s activities for the community in order to continue this Abilene tradition.
Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern PA
Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA (YANJEP), the leading provider of arts education in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, offers over 4,000 programs – performances, residencies, professional learning, and family events – each year.
During these unprecedented times, YANJEP’s priorities have been to support students, school communities, and teaching artists, while finding innovative ways to connect children with arts experiences wherever – and however – their schooling is taking place. The Princeton, NJ-based organization is currently working with its diverse group of teaching artists to channel their collective creativity, artistry, and educational mastery into developing dynamic and engaging online resources.
Soon after schools transitioned to remote learning, YANJEP launched ARTS CONNECTION, a weekly interactive, student-focused video series that allows teaching artists to continue to be a bright spot in every child’s day. Every Monday, YANJEP releases engaging new assembly program content, free on YouTube, to help children across the region stay connected and inspired by the arts while learning from home. ARTS CONNECTION is also being shared through public library systems, school district websites, teacher classroom portals, and other platforms. Thanks to the popularity and sharing of the video series, YANJP has seen a 50% increase in new YouTube subscribers and a 220% increase in views over the past month.
YANJEP is also developing student-focused Live Virtual Arts Experiences, with assembly performances and workshops offered through Google Classroom, Flipboard, and Zoom. YANJEP staff is working closely with an initial cohort of teaching artists to develop, rehearse, and implement virtual school programming, which will be available to schools in June.
With its teaching artists facing an estimated losses of $400,000 in wages, YA collaborated with funders and donors to offer artists financial support. Generous individual donors and foundations were flexible in providing unspent grants funds that YANJEP allocated to artist relief. Further, YANJEP moved swiftly to launch its Artist Innovation Fund. The Fund’s first initiative was a call for YANJEP teaching artists to create online resources to get students, teachers, families, and fellow teaching artists through the period of school closures and beyond. One of the many programs in development is Freestyle Repertory Theatre’s video series, Home Fooling: How to Teach Your Family to Play Improv Games with You. The series will be designed to help families play improv games together and to practice live theatre.
“We know the arts are essential to education,” said YANJEP President & CEO Michele Russo, “and we are determined to be part of children’s learning, even when buildings are closed.” YANJEP believes that, during these challenging times, children need the arts more than ever. The organization remains committed to keeping its community of students, teachers, and families connected with its teaching artists and the creativity they offer.