Professional Development

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Raising the Barre for Arts Programs

Multidisciplinary afterschool programs can create and manage high-quality arts programs reflecting practices used by exemplary programs that specialize in the arts, according to a new study funded by The Wallace Foundation.

The study, Raising the Barre + Stretching the Canvas: Implementing High Quality Arts Programming in a National Youth Serving Organization by Tracey A Hartmann of Research for Action and Wendy McClanahan of McClanahan Associates, looks at the launch of arts instruction in Boys & Girls Clubs of America's (BGCA) Youth Arts Initiative in the Upper Midwest.

With the assistance of BGCA's Atlanta national headquarters, three clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin acted as pilot sites in the initiative and applied a set of 10 Principles for Success developed by The Wallace Foundation in the study Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs from Urban Youth and Other Experts. The clubs began the first phase of the initiative in 2014 and served a total of 900 low-income youth between the ages of 10 and 14 for two-and-a-quarter years.

The organizations, which were already providing a broad range of afterschool programs, were able to successfully apply the principles for high-quality arts programming and involve low-income urban teens.

According to the study, children from low-income households are about half as likely to participate in arts programs than youth from more affluent families. When they do, they are typically encouraged to make crafts, rather than create unique work or develop formative artistic skills.

Yet, in the arts programs studied, students learned art forms such as dance, fashion design, digital music, mural design and more. The findings found that young people who participated in these programs reported higher levels of engagement, developed specific artistic skills and increased their participation at an age when many BGCA clubs see participation drop off.

Raising the Barre + Stretching the Canvas found that local clubs could successfully use The Wallace Foundation's Something to Say principles to create and sustain high-quality programs for urban tweens. The report findings could benefit any program seeking to implement high-quality programming to help engage youth.

To view and download Raising the Barre + Stretching the Canvas, visit wallacefoundation.org.

Photo courtesy of Linda Gumi.