Free Arts Minnesota Year-end Grant Report September 2012 to May 2013
In 2012, In A Perfect World Foundation granted Free Arts Minnesota $10,000 to continue our Weekly Mentorship program at The Bridge For Youth. Thanks to this grant, Free Arts Minnesota was able to return to The Bridge for Youth and provide young people with another year of quality weekly mentorship. This grant made it possible for us to:
- Retain weekly mentors for another year. Retaining mentors means they have the opportunity to build longer term relationships with youth that are living at The Bridge.
- Collaborate with mentors, Bridge staff and teens in order to develop new, more engaging curriculum for the program.
- Develop projects that help teens become compassionate, socially conscious and responsible leaders in our community.
- Provide daily support to the facility staff and weekly mentors to ensure consistent and effective arts sessions throughout the program year.
- Monitor program quality through regular site visits. This helps ensure diverse artistic experiences are taking place and mentor/mentee relationships are being developed.
- Deepen and improve our partner relationship with The Bridge for Youth.
We learned from our first year at The Bridge for Youth that we needed to raise engagement levels by bringing in more themed curriculum as well as guest artists to inspire and engage the youth in their weekly sessions, as well as throughout the week. We partnered with a local performance group called Face Forward, from which we hired a number of teaching artists. Guest teaching artists included:
Bryson Hunter, a local hip-hop dancer. Bryson brought not only an engaging spirit for the arts, but shared his own personal story of homelessness and how The Bridge for Youth helped him reach his goals. Bryson had a strong impact in helping youth understand that they do have options after they leave The Bridge.
Adam Gabriel Napoli-Rangel aka See More Perspective, a local hip-hop and spoken word artist. Adam presented a session called: “Who am I? A lesson in Identity.” To start, he worked with the teens on a writing prompt asking them: Who am I? Why am I here? What does my name mean? He then performed a spoken word piece of his own that reflected his ideas on these questions. Adam and the youth then worked on creating/writing their own Identity Pyramids. They were asked to think about identity from all perspectives. What do people see when they look at you? Is it race, class, gender, sexual orientation? What happens below the surface, the real you? Once the Identity Pyramids were created, the teens were given the choice to create a rap or a spoken word piece based on their pyramid and given the opportunity to perform in front of the group.
Sam Dunne, Guest Chef. Sam worked with the youth for three weeks on developing kitchen skills and learning healthy, affordable recipes that utilize fresh produce for the main ingredients. He started off with easy recipes like guacamole from scratch, in order to gauge the teen’s skill levels. After the first week of teaching basic skills and simple prep work, they were ready to dive in to much more complicated meals like curries and more. This was important for the teens as they live at The Bridge, cook for themselves there, and will be cooking on their own when they transition out.
Emily Floyd,local recycled material jewelry designer. Emily brought in pieces of throw-away materials, including leather and bicycle tires. Early on in her art career, she learned the metaphysical properties of natural materials and the endless possibilities to create something beautiful and meaningful from recycled materials. The need to show that one person’s cast off is another person’s treasure was well received by this homeless population, as some of them see themselves in this same light.
Sarah Warren, writer/teacher. Sarah presented a session on: Writing for Expression and Awareness. The group first explored how we pay attention and what we pay attention to, in order to understand our unique perspectives that inform our artistic expressions. This was followed by creating Black Out Poetry, where students were given paper from books or magazines and by blacking out words created poetry. This taught them to look closer at words and discover distinct, sensory worlds through words. Lastly, the teens and Sarah explored the importance of cultivating a sense of purpose as an artist, by examining how our unique world perspectives and worldviews can help us raise other people’s awareness.
Alissa Paris, a local dancer. Alissa presented a session on: Movement for Social Change. Her goal was to show the teens how movement can invoke change within our bodies as well as effect change in our communities. The group started out discussing what each of them knows and doesn’t know about movement or dance. The youth then created their own eight-count phrase of movement and then combined them all together. They ended by designing a schedule for movement in their own lives.
Healthy Minds and Bodies Program
In addition to the guest artists, Free Arts provided a 6 week “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies” program in the fall. This program included arts-based curriculum on nutrition, such as food portraits based on the work of Giuseppe Arcimbaldo, food sculptures and food photography, dance instructors that taught the teens new ways to be active, as well as 3 weeks of culinary arts training with a student chef from St Paul College. The teens were given a chance to learn new culinary experiences and to be empowered to create new and exciting meals on their own!
QUOTES from Bridge for Youth staff, Free Arts Mentors and Guest Artists:
“I think guest artists definitely help because they are people who are making their living making art of various sorts. In this particular setting, many of the youth involved are searching for jobs and more financial independence. They aren't necessarily looking for a job that makes them feel happy and fulfilled or fits their passions. They just need to make a living, and are looking primarily to get hired where ever they can. While that's true for most of us, it makes our art time even more meaningful if the youth involved see through it that your work and your joy in life don't have to be mutually exclusive. The idea that the best job is something that you wake up excited to do every morning because you love it, and not necessarily the one that will earn you the most money, is a good message for everyone crossing the bridge into adulthood to hear.”
Tavia Parker – Weekly Mentor
“I loved seeing the room get very quiet as the youth thought very intently about the different parts of their identity. Some students had trouble turning those parts of their identity into metaphor, but it was a great reflection for everyone. One student created the metaphor that he is a blank sheet of paper, with little to offer now, but full of possibilities, another said he was an eagle, lost and flying blind in the city. Both were very powerful, honest and poetic concepts.”
SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE – hi-hop/spoken word guest teaching artist
“As a case manager here in Transitions, I’ve seen that Free Arts is beneficial to our youth because it provides an outlet for the youth to express themselves and become creative. It gives them an opportunity to connect with other professionals of a different career path. The projects are always something different and engaging, and the mentors that lead the group are very patient in the way they instruct and work with these youth.”
Bridge for Youth Case Manager
The Bridge for Youth is the only 24-hour runaway and homeless youth program in a residential setting in the metropolitan region. To know that we at Free Arts Minnesota are able to bring caring mentors and a quality arts-access program to the displaced youth in their transitional housing unit is a wonderful gift, for us and for them.