Raising the Barre & Stretching the Canvas

Raising the Barre & Stretching the Canvas

High-quality art classes can be incorporated into a multidisciplinary youth serving organization's afterschool programming successfully with adequate resources, leadership commitment, and childhood development training for the artist-teachers, a report from Research for Action and McClanahan Associates finds. Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, the report, Raising the Barre & Stretching the Canvas: Implementing High Quality Arts Programming in a National Youth Serving Organization (152 pages, PDF), examined efforts by Boys and Girls Clubs of America in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin, to provide high-quality arts programs for low-income urban tweens in an afterschool setting as part of Wallace's Youth Arts Initiative. The study found that the programs fulfilled the "ten principles of success" (outlined in a 2013 Wallace report), with most participating students reporting that the teaching artists were highly skilled in the art form (96-100 percent), had high expectations of the youth (95-100 percent), listened to them (84-97 percent), and asked for their input (80-94 percent); that they felt physically and emotionally safe in class (98-97 percent); that they spent most of the time on hands-on art skill building (54-86 percent) in a dedicated art studio (86-98 percent); and that they made a new friend (72-81 percent). In addition, all teaching artists and YAI liaisons reported that club leadership were committed to the initiative, while all three clubs partnered with community groups and every class held a culminating event. The study also found, however, that artists often needed significant training and support in youth development; that securing dedicated studio space challenged the clubs' practice of sharing spaces; and that the infusion of restricted Wallace funds for the new arts programs created tension with existing programs.