I started with New York Cares a couple years ago as a volunteer in one of the Young Authors programs. I was really blown away by the raw potential of the students who came to class each week and started wondering how I could contribute more. As a filmmaker, the arts are an essential part of my life, so I approached New York Cares with an idea for my own program – one focused on the fine arts and my background in production (if you’ve got an idea for a program, I encourage you to talk to New York Cares about it – don’t be shy!). Together with my uber-smart Program Managers (talk about people who inspire me!), we built a curriculum – and the rest is history.
Explorations in Art & Media’s (EAM) mission is to bring art to students who receive little or no formal arts education. The program brings industry professionals into the classroom to speak about their own artistic pursuits and to lead hands-on projects with the students. In the past two years, EAM has introduced students to travel photographers, songwriters, painters, filmmakers, Broadway actors, commercial directors, and more. At EAM, our goal is to engage each child directly with the medium and to develop his or her own sense of entrepreneurship. These explorations have resulted in incredible student-generated photography, paintings, magazines, poetry, short films – you name it!
One super successful project we did recently in class involved starting a student magazine. I like to give the students opportunities to lead each other, so we started the project by “nominating” an Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. All interested candidates had to give campaign speeches before it was put to a vote by their classmates. From there, we brainstormed as a group what the different features of the magazine would be and what responsibilities each student would own from cover design to feature columns to music reviews and more. Everyone had to own something, and the Editor-in-Chief’s job was to help her peers achieve their vision. The end product was a wonderful compilation of writing that varied from fan articles about One Direction to op-ed pieces about bullying and gun control to poetry and illustrations. The students were so proud! One of them even said, “Well, if being an actress doesn’t work out – I think I’d really like to run a magazine!” Mission accomplished.
Through EAM, I see firsthand the way art gives people the freedom to be themselves. Each week, anyone new to the class has to introduce him/herself with two personal facts – the more embarrassing, the better. This small practice has created an environment in which we all feel comfortable being our weirdest selves together and the result has been a truly collaborative, creative environment. These kids give us access to the joys and heartaches of their own lives simply because art gives them the outlet and the permission. Last week, one of my students said to the class that we are “creating the future” here, which nearly reduced me to a puddle of tears. All I know is that these kids ARE the future, so I encourage you to get involved in your own communities – I promise you, you’ll see the way a paintbrush, a microphone, a pencil, or a lump of clay can change a life.
By Tanya Kateri