Art is often created for entertainment – to be consumed or invested in. But for the young people in the DYS Arts Initiative, art is a vehicle for healing, growth and learning.
In May 2015, youth in the Department of Youth Services performed and displayed their talent in the 3rd annual showcase Share Your Art, Share Your Voice, a statewide exhibition that illustrates the potential of youth committed to DYS and acknowledges the passion and commitment of the workforce that supports them.
“The showcase provides a tangible authentic event with deadlines that inspires more of my students to go the extra mile, to finish a piece, and to express themselves. Beyond that, it is the experience for my students of being a part of something, a taste of belonging, pride, and positive community that is a significant value of having the Showcase,” says Kerry Cesan, an Art Teacher working with DYS youth in Western MA.
The Showcase is the culmination of weeks of visual art instruction by the 5 regional art instructors who teach youth using a variety of 2D techniques and materials. The Arts Initiative also includes art ‘residencies’ in which teaching and performing artists are placed in DYS programs for 6 – 15 weeks of intensive programming, culminating in final performances, celebrations, and presentations.
To make this initiative possible, we partnered with 6 arts organizations and over 20 teaching artists in improvisational theater, hip hop dance, drumming, and mural painting. The arts residencies and visual art instruction aim to build youths’ communication, critical thinking and analytical skills as well as a range of non-cognitive skills: self-expressions, self-presentation, motivation, confidence, optimism for the future and self-advocacy.
Our community arts programming also played a major role in the Showcase. Arts organizations under the Bridging the Opportunity Gap (BOG) initiative, Medicine Wheel, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, and Performance Project sold items made by youth, MC-ed the event with a youth leader; and displayed impressive pieces of collaborative work, respectively.
The Showcase, held at Space 57 in Boston’s theater district, was made possible through a partnership between DYS, Commonwealth Corporation and the Collaborative for Educational Services. The event would not have been possible without support from the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Attended by over 300 people, the showcase was hugely successful and 160 items made by youth were purchased including 80 pieces of art. The program featured an address from Lt. Governor Karyn Polito as well as DYS Commissioner Peter Forbes, DYS Deputy Commissioner Ruth Rovezzi, Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown and Clementina Chery, President and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
In addition to the visual art for sale, the audience witnessed an incredible variety of artistic performances including dance, poetry, stand-up comedy, drum circles, skits and music. Young people bravely and proudly stood on the stage after weeks of preparation and shared their talents. It was an especially memorable day and we at Commonwealth Corporation would like to thank our hard-working partners at DYS and the Collaborative for Educational Services and especially the young people for sharing their experiences with us.