Stories of Resilience Through the Arts from the YA Network - Part 3

April 17, 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.   

abstract pink paint

Center for Arts-Inspired Learning

Cleveland, OH

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.


Mural in buffalo, NY

Young Audiences of Western New York

Buffalo, NY

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.”


Close-up of child's drawing of girl at table holding bowl

Young Audiences of Northeast Texas

Tyler, TX

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.

Mural of children playing amidst a backdrop of green rolling hills

Think 360 Arts for Learning

Denver, CO

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.