Stories of Resilience Through the Arts from the YA Network - Part 1

April 03, 2020 |


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 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA), and our core belief that, even and especially in challenging times, all young people deserve a well-rounded and arts-rich education.   

A brightly painted brick wall with abstract shapes in shades of red, yellow, purple, and blue

Arts for Learning Indiana

Indianapolis, IN

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. 


A child's hand show them working coloring in a series of numbers with brightly-colored crayons

Young Audiences of Maryland

Baltimore, MD

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. 


Children's abstract artwork, in shades of green and orange, sit on the table


ArtsNow Learning

Atlanta, GA

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.


A sun mosaic in progress

Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education

Chicago, IL

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.