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.
During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.
To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far. We recently sat down with Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers.
What is your background as an artist?
FutureMakers started from work I was doing as a visual artist and sculptor with other makers and educators. I was frequently asked if I could bring the type of work I was doing to classrooms. I had met artists, engineers, and technologists that wanted to do projects with young people, but didn’t feel confident about how to approach it. I wondered if an organization could connect makers and educators, so both could build their skills.
During the summer of 2012, I was invited to work with a supportive cohort of community colleges in Maryland to bring STEAM workshops (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) into their summer programs for youth. Since then, we’ve steadily been growing our staff, or as we call them, coaches, and are excited to be working with Young Audiences to provide a formal pathway for those interested in joining FutureMakers to deliver programs to schools.
How did you hear about Young Audiences?
Someone shared a workshop offered by Pat Cruz, Young Audiences Education Director. I wasn’t able to attend, but reached out to Pat to find out how FutureMakers could learn from and work with Young Audiences. In 2013, we were invited to support a summer learning program in Harford County, and participate in the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar. Through TAI, we developed a FutureMakers residency. We’ve been making things that wiggle, draw, glow, and do crazy stuff with kids ever since.
What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve had through Young Audiences?
I was watching morning announcement videos at a school which used puppets created by students with TAI instructor and playwright John Morogiello. They were funny and sharp. It wasn’t about adults, it was about youth development with young people out in front. I was impressed by the way art was completely integrated into that school. It made me wish that more places would work and integrate this way.
What was your favorite part of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar? How has the experience changed your approach to teaching?
TAI solidified the way we at FutureMakers think about the pathway our coaches follow. It focuses our expertise and creativity on student engagement, measurable outcomes, and addresses the needs of our teacher partners. They get to see and do what they’d like within boundaries of what they need to do.
Our coaches are experiencing how maker education can connect in classrooms because of Young Audiences. Being observed, receiving feedback, and having scheduling and communications support is an enormous value that Young Audiences adds to our organization.
What does your art form–particularly as it relates to STEM subjects–teach students?
With technology, things are moving toward additive processes – for example, 3D printing, which is a process we incorporate in many community workshops. Traditional craft and art media are now expanding to incorporate materials often found in science or technology classrooms, or only available to higher education students. In a rapidly evolving, project-based learning world, coaches help young people embrace the design process in their creative lives – think like engineers to figure out how to solve a design challenge, and have the confidence to iterate, or try again, when things go in unexpected directions.
How do the lessons or skills you teach students apply to their everyday life outside of the classroom?
Students asking, imagining, planning, creating, and improving is the core of what we’re about. Young people have limitless imaginations, and are open to learning how to take a step back and ask questions. In the past, young makers followed plans or prescriptive examples to complete a project. We’re learning that truly effective coaches facilitate their discovery of paths and options that lead to mastery – supported by the design cycle.
Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?
Young people need to have the opportunity to try something and fail, and a coach who can help them through difficult spots. Art was the only thing that kept me focused and motivated in high school; it was my identity early on. When we’re working with students in upper-elementary and middle school, identity is a large and important part of what our residencies are about. Art is a fast path to forming and grabbing onto an identity, whatever the content is.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?
It’s incredibly validating to know as an organization we’re doing something that our school systems embrace. I think the most rewarding aspect is knowing that we’re working in a community of other practitioners who are phenomenal performing and visual artists and amazing coaches. That is a very rare mix, and we’re honored to be a part of it.
Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.