The Grand Finale of the 60th Anniversary National Conference!

Michael Mao's ESL Dance program at the Alvin Ailey Studio

Last Friday, the 60th Anniversary National Conference participants visited one of three affiliate sites to see the work we do in person: Connecticut (Stamford), New York City, and New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania (Morristown). I stayed in New York City and my group traveled to the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Studios in Manhattan to observe the ESL Dance (Learning English through Dance) program led by the critically acclaimed Michael Mao. After an incredible demonstration of the multicultural dance fusion, conference participants were asked to interact with the dancers and follow their lead. The program used dance movements to illustrate English vocabulary and grammar.

My site visit group then returned to the Young Audiences New York’s Lobby theatre to see Literature to Life’s Living Library presentation of The Bluest Eye. Twenty high school students also participated in this interactive program. The experience incorporated a number of audience-driven discussions and theatrical exercises where we were given multiple ways to identify with the main character of the novel. 

In the afternoon, we participated in a panel discussion that focused on pushing the boundaries of arts education programming and funding in NYC at the Sony Wonder Lab theatre. YANY board member, “Celebrity” Principal, George Young from P.S. 46 in Harlem kicked off the session with his impassioned testimony about the power of the arts in urban education.

On Saturday, the whole network reconvened for the third and final day and I had the opportunity to meet staff from our newest affiliate – Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE). I would like to extend a warm welcome to their talented staff! In another breakout session, I learned about a highly successful program where students developed their own videogame with the support from Young Audiences teaching artists. The Immersive Game Design project has been piloted by three affiliates in Wichita, Northeast Ohio, and Indiana and we look to expand the program to more affiliates in the near future.

With an inspiring wrap-up, Jane Polin, Philanthropic Advisor, closed the conference by stating: "For sixty years, Young Audiences Arts for Learning has been adaptive, perseverant and continues to strive for excellence". It was also announced that next year’s conference will be hosted by our San Diego affiliate! I will leave you with a few comments about the conference from the YA staff, board members and friends:


How incredible to be able to learn from colleagues in the YA network. The solutions I hear are so immediate, relevant, because our work shows so much common ground.

Emily Garvie – Outreach and Development Associate, Young Audiences of Northern California


It has been inspiring to see so many innovative professionals who are taking risks and trying new things. It is so easy for staff to become complacent and to be surrounded by doers is truly exciting.

Cheryl Strain – Board Member,  Arts for Learning Young Audiences of Indiana


The conference is an amazing time for connections and exploring new possibilities through the conversations we share. You can feel the power, the strength and the diversity of the Young Audiences network.

Rachel Lidskog – Teaching Artist (Dance), Young Audiences Oregon and SW Washington 


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