The Bloomberg Arts Internship: A Perfect Match

“Do you know what a stage manager is? You might be a stage manager.” CJ Philip would know. The award-winning choreographer and artistic director of Dance and Bmore has spent more than enough time on, in front of, and behind the stage to identify the qualities necessary for the role. “The stage manager is air traffic control,” she tells a group of rising high school seniors over Zoom. “If you’re stage manager, you’re communicating with lighting, dance directors, sound—if you wanna know something, ask the stage manager.”

The students are rapt. Not only is CJ an expert in her field, she knows how to cultivate relationships with young people. How lucky we are that Dance & Bmore has returned for a 5th year as a worksite for the Bloomberg Arts Internship.

Since 2017, the Bloomberg Arts Internship has matched rising high school seniors in Baltimore City Public Schools with the city’s premiere arts and cultural institutions to explore careers in the arts first-hand. The students learn that it takes talented individuals from a variety of backgrounds and with skills across many disciplines to create a final product—what the public experiences. The seven-week program, now in its 5th year in Baltimore, runs this summer from July 6 to August 20, with 25 interns working with 18 organizations.

Kristina Berdan, YA’s education director of Baltimore City initiatives, organized the virtual matching session for new interns and worksites. She and team member Joanna Thursby, her executive assistant, have created a loving, energetic, and comfortable space for participants to gather and get to know each other. “You should not consider this a formal interview, but a question and answer period,” she said.

The session begins with small groups completing an introductory task: design the vending machines of their dreams. In no time at all, participants imagine wild combinations of comfort and happiness nestled in springs and levers and housed behind glass. One is stocked with guinea pigs, band aids, and lots of peace. The contents are a delicious blend of fantastic and practical, abstract and essential: sushi, hope, and hair ties; puppies, kittens, and a good night’s sleep.

This icebreaker is anything but awkward. There is laughter and collaboration as a student wonders out loud, “How often do these get changed out anyway?” One group is trying to make their vending machine bigger. They have no trouble envisioning their unlikely contraptions. And because this is Smalltimore, there are reunions of sorts. One student recognizes another from their TWIGS program at Baltimore School for the Arts from years back, while another immediately recognizes a worksite partner—a dear friend of her mother. It’s amazing how connected the worksite partners and interns feel after just a few minutes of brainstorming together. “I feel like I’ve known you forever,” said Chin-Yer from Dewmore Poetry. “Well, one of you I have known forever.”

The participants reunite after a while, a little bit smilier than they left, a little bit less nervous, and, some, wishing the vending machine of their dreams really did exist. It is at this point that the interns introduce themselves to the group, and worksite representatives learn that this talented cohort will bring everything from out-of-the-box thinking, communication skills, teamwork, and good vibes to photo-editing skills and visual art and musical talent to their internships. What’s more, they will bring an invaluable resource to the arts and cultural organizations: youth voice.

Single Carrot Theatre, another worksite returning to the program, is seeking their next community partnership intern. They’re looking for a student who enjoys research and connecting with people. Over the course of this internship, students will be in conversation with designers, and even get to sit in and observe auditions and experience the callback process.

Local nonprofit Art with a Heart is looking for a student interested in digital arts, 3D printing, and digital fabrication and design. This intern will assist in developing products for their online store, Heartwares, that was created in order to continue connecting with the community despite COVID restrictions.

The engaging process made it clear: worksites are as equally excited to share their work as they are to learn from and partner with these students. Together, they will engage and inspire younger audiences through the creation of new programs and activities. This, worksites understand, is an opportunity for them to harness the unique technical and social skills of this generation.

Between time at their worksites, in professional development workshops, and virtual field trips, the 2021 interns will receive college guidance, life skills, and build meaningful relationships and connections with Baltimore artists and people working in the arts. “This is deeper than an internship,” said Chin-Yer. “We stay in touch for years and years and become a family.”

To learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Program, click here, and be sure to follow the program’s Instagram page to stay up to date on interns’ experiences this summer.

Stacie Sanders Evans Selected as a Top 100 Woman

It’s been crystal clear over her 16 years of leading Young Audiences of Maryland, Stacie Sanders Evans rocks! An incredible leader, supporter, mentor, and motivator, Stacie leads us to do more, reach higher, and support more students, families, artists, and educators. It’s great to know others recognize it too: The Maryland Daily Record named Stacie one of its Maryland Top 100 Women Award winners for 2021!

Award winners were selected for their positive impact through leadership, community service, and mentoring—three qualities Stacie brings to Young Audiences every single day. Her fun, positive, passionate approach to leadership sets the tone for our work. Stacie inspires the YA team to create engaging programs that bring joy to students and support them in their academic successes. She truly believes in the arts’ and artists’ power to transform lives. And she understands how to support and manage the many elements of success; we continue to grow as a thriving organization serving more than 250,000 students in every Maryland County and remaining fiscally responsible—especially over the last year.

A heartfelt congratulations to Stacie on this well-deserved honor!

To learn more about the awards and to see the full list of incredible women honored this year, click here.

Celebrating Our Future, Historic Home – Odell’s in Station North

The scene: A Station North community centered around the arts, where Baltimoreans explore, dance, laugh, and learn.

The site: Odell’s, the historic nightclub on North Avenue, which brought Baltimoreans together time and time again to share in the joy of living creatively.

The story: This fall, that same curious, creative spirit will return to the now-vacant building as our new home. We are more honored than words can express.

On Monday, March 15, we celebrated what’s to come at the Odell’s Virtual Groundbreaking. The celebration marked the beginning of a ten-month renovation, preparing the beloved former nightclub to become the home we will share with Code in the Schools.

Moving into a building with a history of such free expression and creativity is an absolute joy. This $6.6 million renovation of the 18,000 square foot building at 19-21 E. North Avenue will transform the building into a community hub for arts-integrated and STEM-based learning. For decades, Young Audiences has been welcomed into school and community buildings across the state. Now, for the first time in our 70-year history, students and their families and caregivers will be able to come to our home and explore their creativity, express themselves, and discover the arts’ power to enhance learning, to enrich communities, and to change lives.

Hundreds watched online as we celebrated on the 15th, with city and educational leaders on-site to honor the day, including Mayor Brandon Scott, City Schools’ CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, City Councilman Robert Stokes, State Delegate Marlon Amprey, and others.

Like everything we do, the celebration featured arts experiences—with teaching artist Femi the DriFish moving the audience through a spoken word poem to start the day, and teaching artist Amanda Pellerin leading a collective creative experience to close it out. Pellerin is creating a clay mural for installation in the building after having the speakers and few in-person attendees make their impression in a block of clay using an object that, to them, represents learning, creativity, and community.

The excitement was palpable. But don’t take our word for it—here is what a few of our special guests had to say:

Mayor Brandon Scott:
“Thank you to Code in the Schools and Young Audiences for keeping up the tradition of Odell’s… You’ll know when you’ll belong was the saying at Odell’s, and what Young Audiences and Code in the Schools are doing here is telling our young people that they belong. We know the arts are a vital tool in allowing our young people to imagine and envision a future for themselves and their community… We need to allow our young people to dream about what they want Baltimore to be for them. This is how we inspire the beautiful minds of our young people.”

Dr Sonja Santelises:
“It is because of organizations like Young Audiences and Code in the Schools that young people in Baltimore have the kind of enrichment opportunities that are going to allow our community to not only bounce back from the last year of challenge, but actually to move forward. We know that a lot of our young people’s healing, their re-engagement, their belief in themselves, is going to be connected to what’s going to be happening in this building… A lot of that work is because of the dedication we have from partners like Young Audiences and Code in the Schools, who were committed long before this building to young people in Baltimore having the kinds of experiences that make school worth coming back to.”

Find a recording of the ceremony, here. A huge thanks to our partners and funders in this project, including Jubilee Baltimore, Property Consulting Inc, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Central Baltimore Partnership, Central Baltimore Future Fund, The Abell Foundation, and The France-Merrick Foundation.

We’re filled with excitement and anticipation for the day our doors open at Odell’s. We cannot wait to welcome you into our home to explore, create, learn, and have fun. Keep an eye out for updates as our renovation progresses. In the meantime, check out some photos from the celebration.

Odell's Exterior

Young Audiences of Maryland Receives $50,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences of Maryland has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support its Principal Fellowship program – a year-long initiative guiding 10 Baltimore City Public School principals in integrating the arts into learning for school-wide improvement.

This grant, which marks the 4th consecutive year that Young Audiences has received NEA funding, is part of the NEA’s nearly $25 million in funding of more than 1,000 Arts Projects nationwide in its first round of 2021 funding. The NEA’s grant to Young Audiences equals its largest commitment in Maryland for this round of funding.

Principals participating in the Fellowship – now in its second year – will create a community of school leaders and peers who share a commitment to justice and joy in education. They will explore the arts’ power to transform school culture, enhance learning and spur social emotional growth. Through collaborative planning sessions, one-on-one coaching by teaching artists, and observations of Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy and cultural institutions, each principal will create an action plan to leverage the arts as a tool for positive change at their schools.

The Principal Fellowship is designed to support Baltimore City Public Schools’ Blueprint For Success priorities of whole child development, literacy, and leadership. Participating principals will receive a $500 honorarium plus $3,000 to help implement arts-based approaches at their schools.

Applications for the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship, which begins in June 2021, are being accepted until April 23 and can be found here.

Analysis of Young Audiences’ work integrating the arts into learning for more than 200,000 students a year – through teaching artist residencies, assemblies, workshops and more – has shown significant impact on academic and social emotional growth. Sharing these strategies and ideas with school principals will exponentially expand that impact.

“We started the Principal Fellowship after seeing that in thriving schools, true commitment to the arts starts with leadership.” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President and CEO. “We’re honored that the NEA’s continued commitment to our work will allow us to continue supporting our school leaders as they support their students and staff..”

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this project from Young Audiences of Maryland,” said Arts Endowment Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Young Audiences is among the arts organizations across the country that have demonstrated creativity, excellence, and resilience during this very challenging year.”

For more information about the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship, or to apply, visit https://www.yamd.org/principal-fellowship/

For more information on projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning:  
Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in- education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for over 7,000 hands on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

Arts & Learning Kids Show Now Available to All Maryland School Districts

When schools closed last spring, we knew it was time to improvise. Even (or especially!) at home, students need high-quality learning experiences and creative engagement to ensure they continue growing. Closed classrooms presented a significant challenge for artists to collaborate with teachers and inspire students.

Enter Arts & Learning Kids. Young Audiences’ talented team created this arts-integrated TV show where  master teaching artists and educators guide children in fun and inventive math and literacy lessons. The 30-minute, arts-infused episodes—there are more than 100 of them—bring joyous learning to life with music, beat boxing, illustration, puppetry, dancing, and more. Arts & Learning Kids are tailored to specific grades—preK to K, 1st and 2nd, and 3rd to 5th—and the content they are studying.

The shows have been available to Baltimore City and Prince George’s County students through local cable TV channels, on our Facebook page, and through direct, weekly emails to more than 175 educators. And now, EVERY Maryland public school district can purchase these lessons for its students and families!

All Arts & Learning Kids episodes are available for purchase by school districts, educators, and care providers across the state.

The episodes support both remote and in-person learning and can be a useful tool for teachers working with students in both spaces. Check out some highlights, here!

Like all of us in so many ways, we didn’t know what to expect after launching the show. But soon it became clear: thousands of students, families, and educators have used the Arts & Learning Kids shows to stay in touch, add some joy and diversity to their lessons, and continue to learn and grow. And with each show, we include written extensions – academic and arts-based activities that can be taught in a virtual or in-person classroom. As one school principal put it, the shows make it easier for teachers because it is easy to access and the kids are so engaged. “It is central to instruction.”

In the New Year, Arts & Learning Kids will reach more districts, more educators, and more students. Spread the word! If you’re interested in bringing Arts & Learning Kids to your district, students, household, or schools, send an email to [email protected].

Students Need Arts Education Now More than Ever

Written by Stacie Sanders Evans,
President and CEO of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning

The arts shape who we are. When we’re exposed to an art form–when we’re diving in and really experiencing it–we’re seeing life through a different lens. This means that we’re accessing information that might otherwise have been out of reach and making connections that may not have been evident. And when these experiences happen in the classroom, students are empowered to make decisions, to collaborate and build with their peers, and to understand lessons in a way that is accessible to them. In celebration of National Arts in Education Week, we want to amplify the message that now more than ever, the arts are an essential part of every child’s education.

I remember the steel drums from my first assembly in second grade, the ballet performance of my first field trip at the Columbia Coliseum in South Carolina, and music class in the trailer. My first artist-in-residence experience introduced me to Batik in fourth grade. We had arts integration before anyone thought we needed to define what that was: In fifth grade, our teachers gave us a camcorder, and we produced a music video using Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics to True Colors as part of ELA curriculum.

This was all before I turned 12 years old. These moments made a mark on me. #BecauseOfArtsEd, I knew that life existed beyond my neighborhood, that history expanded beyond what I knew, and that those who “got” Cyndi Lauper “got” me at a time when I needed to feel understood. Three decades later, these moments from school resonate with me more than anything else.

It turns out my robust arts education back in the 80’s is now deemed a privilege. In the years since I was in elementary school, the facts show that kids today have fewer artists and arts teachers in their lives and as part of their public education.

This is not the only privilege that I benefit from and, when you are a person carrying privilege, it’s easier to look at the world through a window instead of raising the mirror to the world you are a part of. The mirror reveals a City where the police receive a budget of half a billion dollars–a sixth of the overall city budget–while our school system receives a mere fraction of that. The mirror shows that Black and Brown children in our state are less likely to have visual arts, dance, music, and theatre as part of their education. Imagine all of the moments of discovery, expression, connection, and cohesion that are eliminated by not having those kinds of teachers in their life?

The disinvestment grows. With the economic fallout of COVID, “belt-tightening” is already happening in school budgets; arts positions for the current school year in my kids’ public school have been cut, and I’ve heard that other arts teachers have either lost their positions or have been asked to not teach their art forms (i.e. an “elective”) but in a “core” subject. How is this ok when children are experiencing the trauma of a global pandemic and the murdering of Black people, including George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery? How is this ok when the arts could help build the sanctuary our kids need and fuel the empowerment and self-actualization needed for the next generation to create a more racially just world?

At Young Audiences, we see that when we integrate the arts into instruction–beyond the art room or dance studio, and into literacy and math–you get high levels of engagement and, in turn, higher levels of achievement, particularly for kids who are identified as below grade level. This is because different things motivate and speak to different learners. For many kids, the arts may just be that thing. Each child has their own light switch that they sometimes need help turning on. The arts, teaching artists, and arts teachers in my life flipped that switch for me.

We at Young Audiences have come to realize that it can play a more intentional role in disrupting systems, like public education, when we see that system oppressing Black and Brown children instead of uplifting them. We are starting by getting our own classrooms in order, so that the faculty who teach in our Summer Arts & Learning Academy can construct anti-racist classrooms where all children are celebrated, honored, and affirmed. We asked this faculty to step into their roles as change agents within the current system. We understand that, in order to transform systems, we need to lift up an alternative model for what a new just system could look like. Artists, arts teachers, and arts organizations are essential to dismantling and rebuilding.

YA, in community with teaching artists, is on a course to re-envision how the arts can be used to transform the learning environment in school settings and at a systemic level. We know that #BecauseOfArtsEd, children start Kindergarten better prepared and ready to learn; that #BecauseOfArtsEd, students experience less summer learning loss, leading to more instruction time devoted to learning new material; and that #BecauseOfArtsEd, school communities see positive academic achievement and social and emotional development among students. The new system undoubtedly includes the arts. And we know that students absolutely deserve the arts as part of a well-rounded education. But, in this society, if we want to see a different reflection when looking in the mirror, we need them.

This post originally was written for AEMS and their #WeAllDeserveArts campaign. To learn more about the important work AEMS does to support and advance quality arts education in Maryland, visit their website at aems-edu.org.

Young Audiences of Maryland Wins NSLA 2020 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences of Maryland, the Baltimore-based nonprofit delivering arts-integrated learning experiences to Maryland students and educators, has won the National Summer Learning Association’s 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award for its Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Young Audiences was selected out of more than 350 applying organizations from across the country.

The 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award award honors Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy – operated in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools – for curbing summer learning loss. While most children lose up to two months of math skills over the summer, the cumulative effects of summer learning loss are most detrimental to students living in under-resourced communities. Young Audiences has also been recognized for demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement, promoting healthy development for children and youth, supporting educator professional development and enhancing family and community engagement. The award included a $10,000 donation to Young Audiences. Past award winners have included West Virginia University, Hasbro, Ohio State, and the YMCA.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

SALA is a free, five-week, summer program typically engaging more than 2,000 Baltimore students a year in hands-on, arts-based learning guided by professional teaching artists and educators. The seven year old program has been shown by multiple independent studies to reduce summer learning loss, increase student confidence and engagement, and transform how teachers teach. For example, SALA students may use beat boxing to support math instruction, paint their favorite scenes from stories they are reading, or explore the art of photography to learn about the nature all around them. This kind of programming is designed to make learning more accessible for students, and to influence traditional educational systems to empower all students to express their voices and experiences.

The awards are presented annually by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

“This award validates the creative approach of Baltimore City Public Schools and Young Audiences to using the summer months to address the opportunity gaps in our city,” said Dr. Sonia Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “When we bring artists into our classrooms in the summer they spark curiosity, creativity, and a desire to learn that fuels our students’ academic growth.”

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning:
Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in-education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for nearly 10,000 hands-on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

About the National Summer Learning Association
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works in summer learning, develops and delivers community capacity-building offerings and convenes and empowers key actors to embrace summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. For more information, visit www.summerlearning.org/.

BAI 2020: Internship Reimagined

Young people especially have felt the brunt of disappointment this year. It’s been hard for adults not to throw up our hands defeated by what felt like every important event and pivotal milestone of 2020 being cancelled. Imagine how that feeling must be amplified in teenagers. And it wasn’t just the celebratory moments, the graduations, dances, concerts, performances, and year-end trips being cancelled. Important next steps were postponed and progress, halted.

Many students relying on the professional experience an internship provides have missed out on those opportunities as well. But not Bloomberg Arts interns. The Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI) has always been special. Since 2017, the chance to work within arts and cultural organizations, to learn from and alongside arts and cultural professionals, and to be a valued voice within an organization has been extraordinary for rising high school seniors in Baltimore City. Couple that with mentorship, college prep, and practice with writing coaches, and you can understand what makes BAI such an invaluable opportunity for young people at the intersection between high school and college. It had to happen.

Each host city—Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia—stepped up to the challenge of reimagining and delivering an intense and multifaceted program involving multiple organizations and students from many different high schools in a virtual space this summer. If that doesn’t tell you that the Bloomberg Arts Internship is something extraordinary, know this: 75% of our Baltimore program’s college mentors are BAI 2017 graduates and our social media manager, Josh Ray, is a BAI 2018 graduate. To have so many alumni return full-circle to guide students, to make sure that they, too, have the opportunities, training, and insight needed to be successful in college and careers speaks volumes. We are so honored.

Artwork and reflections from 2020 Bloomberg Arts Interns

The 2020 Bloomberg Arts Internship Worksites:
Art with a Heart
Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS)
Arts Every Day
Baltimore Jewelry Center
Baltimore Youth Arts
Creative Alliance
Dance & Bmore
DewMore Baltimore
Evergreen Museum and Library
Homewood Museum
Living Classrooms – Ascend through Music Program
Maryland Historical Society
Maryland Institute College of Art
Single Carrot Theatre
The Baltimore Museum of Art

By now, our 2020 cohort of Bloomberg Arts Interns have each settled into working with one of these 15 arts and cultural organizations in Baltimore–some who have welcomed interns since the program began in 2017, some brand new this year, all of them excited to work with students and make the most of their internship even in a virtual landscape. We cannot wait to hear and read about the projects they will imagine and develop this summer in their blog and through their Instagram page. Like most programs post-COVID-19, the Bloomberg Arts Internship looks a little different this year. But it feels right.

The Bloomberg Arts Internship is managed by Young Audiences through the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Learn more about the program here.

Weekends Are for Arts & Learning Kids!

Did you catch Arts & Learning Kids! on Channel 77 this weekend? Young Audiences created this cool educational TV show in partnership with City Schools to reinforce what our students are learning remotely through interactive arts-integrated lessons!

Each episode is geared toward one of three grade bands (PreK/K, 1/2, and 3rd-5th Grades), and features a teacher and professional artist co-teaching an arts-integrated math or literacy lesson in-line with the math and literacy work students are currently doing either virtually or via packets. After each episode airs, it is accessible anytime online at yamd.org/kids.

This is not a passive viewing experience! During each episode, students are challenged to explore learning through a variety of art forms. They’ll learn key math concepts using their whole bodies and voices; write and animate their own myths by creating a flip book; learn basic tap steps to help review fractions; engage in storytelling using an actor’s tools; or even solve math problems with shadow puppets!


In the episode “Character Traits Choreography,” students have the opportunity to identify their own character traits and those of important Civil Rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges. Students will be able to unlock their creativity and communicate those character traits through dance! Learning several elements of dance like frozen poses, levels, shapes and energy, students will not only get to perform the Ruby Bridges choreography, but will be inspired to look for the leaders—particularly those who respond to injustice—in their communities and in themselves, identify character traits of those individuals, and create their own choreography. (This episode is recommended for students in 1st and 2nd Grade) 

As a fun bonus, within each episode are two special segments. The “Sweet Stuff Showcase” highlights an engaging and educational digital experience from outside of our own organization. The “Artsplosions” segment features YA artists presenting a cool and quick experience in their art form that often encourages kids to get up and get moving. We are so excited to share Arts & Learning Kids! with you. It really is an AWESOME program and we think that even parents and caregivers will find that it’s super fun to watch. Check it out!

Children kneeling on stage around a microphone and taking turns singing into it with musician Scott Paynter accompanying them on guitar.

Hear Scott Paynter on smARTbeats!

smARTbeats returns to WTMD on Saturday, October 19 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews talks with Scott Paynter, or Scotty P as he’s known around town, one of our talented teaching artists from Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). He embodies fun and warmth in his classroom and on stage as a solo performer and as a lead vocalist with the world-renowned reggae band Jah Works

“Jah Works is a true grassroots success story that emerged from Baltimore’s reggae scene over 20 years ago. This is music made by and for lovers of real, authentic reggae music. Consistently performing hundreds of shows a year worldwide, they have forged their sound in clubs, festivals and on the sun drenched beaches of Negril. Their sound is firmly planted in the roots of Jamaican music and culture, encompassing rock steady, reggae, and elements of dancehall and dub. What Jah Works does best is introduce the novice music listener to the fullness of reggae music and culture.” —from jahworks.com

Scott’s classroom in SALA is a creative and joyful place where music and children go hand in hand. Perhaps it’s because he got his own start in music as a young child with a guitar he built from plywood and yarn. How awesome that every summer he helps more young musicians discover their passion for music and songwriting!

Scott doesn’t just share his art form with students, he teaches them to demonstrate what they’ve learned through music. By writing songs about the books and stories they’ve read, children are able to dive deep into the different characters and their personalities—bringing them to life. Take this video, for instance, of Scott’s students performing a song they wrote with the artist about a book they read together called City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.

It should come as no surprise that kids love coming to his class to sing and learn! Mr. P makes learning fun—and even though his time with them is relatively short, his patience and commitment to the students can be seen in the strengthening of their academic abilities, their understanding, and the genuine smiles on their faces.

Listen online now to the smARTbeats interview with Scott Paynter at WTMD.org

Young At Heart airs weekly on 89.7 WTMD from 7 to 8 am on Saturdays, featuring music that appeals to parents and children alike. Previous shows have featured music by Wilco, David Bowie, Andrew & Polly, Weezer, and others. 

Principal Reese uses watercolor to create her wish banner at the Principal's Fellowship dinner

Meet the Principal: Monique Reese

In January 2020, Bay Brook Elementary Middle School will move into a 21st Century school building! Monique B. Reese, Principal of Bay Brook told us that along with the move, her school is adopting an arts integration model. During her first three years at the school, she focused on reducing suspensions and building a positive school climate. Now, Mrs. Reese’s goal is to use the arts to assist with increasing student engagement and higher achievement. That’s what brings her to the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship Program.

Mrs. Reese began her career as an elementary school teacher in various urban school districts. During her time as a teacher, she found a passion for leading others in teaching and learning. This passion for leadership led her to serve for eight years as an Assistant Principal in the District of Columbia Public Schools, and then as a principal at Bay Brook Elementary Middle School. During her first three years at Bay Brook, she focused on reducing suspensions and building a positive school climate. “I am excited about being a part of the Young Audiences Principal Fellowship program because it directly connects to my new school model,” she said. “I can learn new ideas about arts integration that I can directly implement in my school as we begin our new vision.”

“We have seen first-hand the excitement the arts bring to our students.”

Over the course of the program, she’ll receive coaching from experienced educators who have already used arts integration as leverage for school change. “Our students learn in different ways and we need a path that reaches all learners,” Mrs. Reese said. “When given the choice between STEM, project-based learning, and arts integration for their new school model, the staff and community were confident that a larger focus on the arts would bring positive change.”

The school currently has a partnership with Arts Every Day which helps fund artist residencies for classrooms. Already, the school holds monthly arts integration days in which teachers engage students in an art project to teach literacy, math, or science. “We have seen first-hand the excitement the arts bring to our students,” she said. “The staff believe that the arts will give students the opportunity to be more engaged in the content, thus reducing class disruptions and increasing achievement.”

Mrs. Monique Reese, Principal of Bay Brook Elementary Middle School, is one of ten Baltimore City Public Schools principals selected to participate in the Principal Fellowship Program. The year-long fellowship provides principals with the guidance and framework to develop an arts-based action plan in their schools and we are thrilled to have her in the inaugural cohort!

Belonging

Written by Stacie Sanders Evans,
President and CEO of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning

Belonging. That’s the word that has been on my mind. Our founder, Nina Collier, understood belonging. She felt music belonged in schools, that artists belonged in a child’s education. In 1950 she inspired a movement of artists-in-schools. What started in Baltimore has now grown to 30 Young Audiences–the largest arts-in-education network in the US.

Today, Young Audiences artists like Femi the DriFish and Valerie Branch ignite a child’s desire to learn. Whatever our partner artists’ art form is–hip hop dance or improvisational theatre–they use it to draw kids into learning. We train our artists to integrate their art form with whatever is being taught in students’ literacy, math, social studies, and science classes.

We do that because when kids create something they get to make choices. They make meaningful connections. They express themselves. Choice and voice–that makes the learning matter.

When we, as a community, provide children with these kinds of opportunities, we are telling them, “You matter!” All of this, what we do, it nurtures the sense of belonging in our kids, artists, parents, and teachers. And it is belonging that I feel when I walk into one of our classrooms. Listen to how Tiffani, Dawn, and Valerie talk about our community in Together–we are their people–and we all belong.

Think back to when you were growing up. Who were YOUR people? What teacher or coach left their imprint. Who helped you become the person that you are today?  I bet that person made you feel visible. Known. That you belonged.

My moment was in ninth grade. I was struggling in many different ways and my drama teacher, Mrs. Howard, saw something in me. She knew how to draw that “something” out–just like the 200 artists (both YA roster artists and independent artists) we work with. In her class, I belonged. She cast me as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. And that moment was like rocket fuel for me.

Belonging is a strong human need, particularly in our children. I see belonging as the net below the trapeze. When kids have that net of belonging, they are more likely to lean into learning–kids like Josh Ajala, who in Together, spoke about moving from the back of the class to the front–and his sister Tiffani Ajala–who was brave enough to apply for Baltimore Design School (and got the highest possible score on her fashion portfolio!) These are the courageous risks we want our kids to take so that they can grow.

But public education for the last 17 years, after the birth of No Child Left Behind, hasn’t been focused on this. It has been about raising standards and increasing school accountability–measured through standardized testing. What do kids who are part of this system think about this? In Brenna’s poem, she says students feel like they are just inputs and outputs in one simple equation.

The outcomes we are seeing are heartbreaking and not sustainable as a society. Eight out of ten Baltimore City Schools students do not meet “proficiency” in math or reading. Nearly half of our children across the state entering Kindergarten are already behind. Four out of ten Maryland teachers leave teaching within five years because this isn’t the equation they want to be a part of.

A different way is needed. Young Audiences is a different way. Our movement is to make sure all kids–and the people who teach them–are not treated like inputs and outputs but as the whole beautiful human beings that they are.

Today, thanks to our 450 school partners, our Sunburst Society members, and our game-changing evidence, our movement is growing. Outreach has doubled in the last five years. We impact the education of 191,000 children EVERY year–children in EVERY Maryland county.

We are on a mission to close the opportunity gaps in this educational system. We have four strategies:

  • Preventing summer learning loss by operating 20 summer programs across our city
  • Increasing school readiness through early childhood programs in four counties
  • Improving student engagement in learning by providing professional development to 500 teachers every year
  • Increasing equity in access to opportunity–more than 30,000 of our children are in under-resourced communities, so we provide more to them

We have made tremendous progress over the last five years but we can take this to a new level. Five years from today, I think we can change the educational trajectory of 50,000 more kids. Here is how we can get there:

  • Expand our evidence-based Summer Arts & Learning Academy in and beyond Baltimore City. This is the program that Tiffani, Alice, and Josh participated in that continues to have a ripple effect in their life. To expand to just one more school district, we have to find and train 20 more artists.
  • This Academy is only 25 days of a kid’s life–and in that short time, we see lots of benefits. Imagine if kids had that kind of arts-integrated learning during the school year and school day? We want to launch year-round professional development and support for teachers and principals to make that happen. If we were able to add just one more person to our staff that focused on professional development, we could support 100 more teachers and principals every year.
  • To have the greatest impact on a child’s potential, we need to invest early. (Did you know that 80% of the brain’s synaptic connections are made by age 3?) In 2024, we want to bring our Baby Artsplay program to 5,000 infants and toddlers across Maryland and–to their very first teacher–their parents. This will require our artists to be trained in early childhood development.

Think back to your person–your Mrs. Howard. Think back to that feeling of belonging. Imagine if you could create that opportunity for someone else. For another Josh. Another Brenna. Take that opportunity and multiply it by 50,000. Fifty thousand children sitting in the front of the class, trying out for Baltimore Design School, reaching for that trapeze handle.

That is the opportunity in front of us. For Brenna, that is the equation she wants us to come together and solve.