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“A space that values youth voices”

When you feel heard by others, you recognize the spark of genuine connection. All young people need to experience that kind of connection; they need safe spaces to ask difficult questions and express their thoughts and feelings. More young people than ever are seeking those connections at New Urban Arts this year, and you can help us meet the growing need.  

Recent events have been a stark reminder why the community New Urban Arts builds is so crucial, and why we need a space that values youth voices. When you walk into New Urban Arts, you’ll typically see students sitting across from me at my desk, telling me about their lives and asking questions. We draw together, and while we draw together, we talk. We’ve been talking a lot about Ferguson. Our youth are asking challenging questions and processing serious concerns about how society views them.

When education is too focused on scores and quantifiable outcomes, there is not enough time during the school day for open-ended discussion and creativity. In a city where over 15,000 children are growing up in poverty and our schools are woefully underequipped in so many basic ways, asking young people how they feel, what they think, and what they would like to create has been outsourced to New Urban Arts.

We can only fill the gap with the help of donors like you. With your support, we’re here—a team of patient, caring artists—not to provide answers, but to be available, serve as a sounding board, ask questions, and above all, to take young people seriously.

I like working with an artist mentor because I feel like we have an equal opportunity to teach each other new things. No one is above the other. I don’t feel judged. I finally have a place where I can be myself and be accepted for who I am. I found a home.

– S. R., New Urban Arts student

As you know, young people at New Urban Arts work through their thoughts and feelings via the creative process. A student in our summer program recently described this experience in a college essay:


The nonjudgmental discussions within this program are enlightening, and learning how to translate these issues into art and writing is life-changing. When asked what I would like to see happen in this program, I find myself suggesting a collaborative art piece—something that would have previously sent me crawling back into my shell. However, this is the new me, the artist who no longer hides in her imagination, but is strengthened by it.

L.M., New Urban Arts student

This story illustrates the remarkable possibilities for young people when they have time and space to explore what matters to them and make art from it. But we need your support to create this space.

I told you that more youth are using New Urban Arts’ studio than ever—further proof that our community needs this place. So far this year, we have experienced the highest attendance levels in our 18-year history. That means more young people using art supplies, needing bus passes and eating snacks. It also means we need to add part time staff, so that more adults are consistently present for our youth—so that our artist-mentors have logistical support and can focus on students.

With your help New Urban Arts will remain a safe space for generations of Providence youth and a model for positive youth engagement nationally. Please support us as we continue to work to stake a claim for the centrality of creativity and imagination in human and community development.

Give today online at:


Elia Gurna,
Executive Director

P.S. I hope you’ll consider monthly giving; visit and click on Become a Monthly Sustainer.