The Teaching Artists Who Make It Happen Need Our Help

Pure and simple, our teaching artists are the engine for the inspired learning Young Audiences brings to the classroom and to students. They drive the creativity. They are the inspiration that excites and motivates students. And they give selflessly.

Now it’s our turn to give to them – through the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund.
 
You can support our partner artists in this unusually challenging time. Classrooms are closed. Programs and schools that contract for our teaching artists are financially challenged. As a result, our artists have lost more than $80,000 in earnings between September and December—and we project greater losses this Spring—and their opportunities to use their craft outside of YA have largely disappeared. Many of our partner artists are struggling, and there is no clear timeline for when they can again return to the classroom and restore their income.

By pivoting to online learning—and also through the generosity of our incredible supporters—we’ve been able to mitigate some of that financial impact. We’ve partnered with our artists to develop incredible online content. We also raised more than $57,000 through the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund launched in the Spring of 2020—all of which was given to our artists. We’ve helped to keep them working and reducing their financial gap.

Prior to the Winter holidays, our Board allocated $30,000 financial relief to artists…but it’s not enough.

Today, we are reopening the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund. Two generous donors are furthering the relaunch of the Fund with an additional gift of $5,000. Knowing that 100% of the money contributed to the Fund goes directly to the artists and their families, we are asking you to offer your support by making a contribution to the Fund.

On behalf of our artists, their families, and the students who benefit from their work, thank you.

Stacie and the YA Team

A Love Letter to Our Board: 

If you are part of any nonprofit, what kinds of things come to mind that a board member might ask you to bring to a meeting? Is it a budget? The latest donor report? 

This is why I love the Young Audiences Board of Directors. Yes, sometimes they ask me for these things. But, prior to our last meeting, the Board Chair asked me, “How are the artists doing?” He wanted to bring a report that spoke to this.

If you are reading this, you likely already know that COVID-19 has hit the artist community hard.  Nearly two-thirds of artists and creative workers report being unemployed. Last year, when COVID-19 hit, it was the Board that launched the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund and, between the individuals who donated to that, foundations that allowed us to repurpose grant funds, and the Maryland State Arts Council, YA was able to ensure that those artists who were depending on contracted income last school year received what they were counting on. YA provided over $270,000 in earnings and financial relief to artists in our community. In turn, our artists innovated, and we found new ways to put them to work continuing to inspire and engage children during the pandemic: Check out Arts & Learning Snacks and Arts & Learning Kids, two of our innovations, which continue to positively impact kids.  

COVID-19 is still with us. School budgets are frozen, and money typically earmarked for the arts is being directed elsewhere. The result: Our artists lost more than $80,000 in earnings between September and December, and we project greater losses this Spring. On December 18th, when Board members saw this, they agreed to allocate $30,000 in immediate financial relief to artists. Five days later, on December 23rd, this relief hit artists’ bank accounts.  

Board members also agreed to relaunch the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund, and swiftly found two donors to kick off the Fund with $5,000. We know our artists want more than financial relief. They want to be put to work, to breathe joy and creativity into virtual learning, and to show up for kids when they could really use us! One hundred percent of the funds raised will go directly to putting artists to work and benefiting children. 

Wanna see who these amazing board members are?!? Check them out here

In closing out this love letter, I am sharing just one example of the outpouring of love from YA artists when they received this unexpected and much needed financial relief: 

It brings me to tears but tears of great joy to know we have people like you in support of your artists in these trying times! With the holidays coming up and very low income on our part, we want to say God is good and this blessing is just in time and right on time and much needed. Working with YAMD for two decades has been one of our best journeys, as we are still working to create top quality virtual prerecorded videos and live Zoom performances, etc. To have some kind of income flow and we are more than dedicated to staying connected to youth and community which is most important. We love you dearly, Brandon Albright, Illstyle Peace Productions. 

We love our Board dearly, too! Be on the lookout for how you can join our board in loving our artists through the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund this Friday.

With appreciation,
Stacie

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.