Two weeks ago, I asked our student leadership team to write a letter about what they do, and they ended up explaining why you should support New Urban Arts:
“What makes the space so special to us is how contrary an environment it is to school…. Here, it’s on your own terms. New Urban Arts is nothing like a school art class, which some of our seniors haven’t had since elementary school.”
As I mentioned in my last letter to you, over the last ten years the number of art teachers in the Providence School District declined from 155 to 72; we went from one teacher for every 178 students to one for every 327 students. We all wonder what statistics really mean; if you’re the statistic, do you really notice whatever decline you’re supposed to be experiencing?
Well, our students noticed, and they’re telling us that some of them have gone at least seven years without art in school. Help us fill the void by supporting New Urban Arts.
The students’ letter explains exactly why teens need the creative time and space they find at New Urban Arts:
“There is complete creative freedom: mentors here aren’t meant to be formal teachers, but instead, help out on whatever level any student needs, from showing them a new skill to giving feedback on an independent piece of work…. No one feels pressured to be someone they are not. Perhaps most valuably, NUA is a safe space. Anybody can come; it’s anti-bullying, anti-prejudice, anti-harassment. For any time of our lives, whether happy or sad, leisure or crunch-time, NUA is the perfect place to be.”
The freedom and relief from pressure that we offer makes us the “perfect place to be,” but it also puts us at odds with afterschool funders that have become increasingly prescriptive about what we should teach and how it should align with school standards. We help young people develop all kinds of skills, but our values dictate that we don’t succeed by forcing them on our students. We succeed by responding to students’ goals:
“We also have big dreams for the future; our members imagine the studio getting a fuzzy carpet or a Velcro wall. Others think of goals for improvement, like color film development, fixing up our loom, or getting a 3-D printer, or planning activities like cake decoration and a day of finger-painting.”