Arts education is at an all-time low for Providence public school students. In our high schools, for every art teacher, there are over 600 students. We’re seeing record attendance at New Urban Arts; it’s nearly doubled since 2011. As you’d imagine, costs have risen with attendance, but we’re committed: we’re not turning anyone away, and we’re staying true to our vision. Now, we need your support to keep that commitment.
Despite our growth, despite the demand, it has been difficult to attract new institutional funders. For some, it’s hard to see past the fact that New Urban Arts doesn’t have classrooms, productivity metrics, attendance requirements, or other trappings of dominant educational approaches.
Instead, we have a community built around young people’s needs—as defined by young people. That’s why, when you walk into our studio, you’ll see students doing so many different things. Most are making art, but you’ll also see students hanging out, studying, and playing games. You’ll see them preparing college applications and planning their futures. When you support our work, you’re offering young people flexibility; you let them choose the right experience for them.
If you see the wisdom in this approach, please donate. Please help us pay for additional educators. Help us fill the studio with the resources that our youth need. Build a community that is ready to embrace more students than ever and give them something vital that they’re not getting anywhere else.
Saulo, our program and development assistant, is an alumnus of New Urban Arts. A few weeks ago, he asked me if it was okay to take time out from his duties to talk to Mila, a student with whom he has a particular rapport. “Of course,” I told him, “that’s why we’re here.” He then told me a little about their conversation.
Mila is a gifted singer; she initially came to New Urban Arts to nurture that talent, but this space nurtures her in other ways. Here’s Saulo:
Mila seemed really upset so I sat with her and asked what was bothering her. We had talked before about her living situation, so I had some idea about the problems she’s facing. She often seeks me out to talk because she feels really comfortable around me and can open up to me.
She was telling me she felt super discouraged and that she was thinking of not making music anymore. She opened up to me and told me she has this facade of being confident, but ultimately is very self-conscious and has really low self-esteem. I sat there and I listened to her speak about wanting to give up on her passions because she felt like she wasn’t getting anywhere, like she was wasting her time and even mine.
To hear her say those things stirred some emotions in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. I was in her shoes at one point, a confused, scared, and anxious teenager at New Urban Arts trying to figure out what life is about. I talked to her a bit about my own struggles, to let her know that I went through some of the same things.
After a while she got re-inspired and she left with a smile on her face. She said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” That’s why this place is so important, because for some youth it’s the only place they can feel comfortable enough to say what they really feel without judgment, and know that what they say will be taken seriously. It’s the one place they can truly feel safe.
New Urban Arts is now the largest high school afterschool arts program in the city, but that’s just one reason why this space is so important. Youth are hungry to express themselves, but they’re also looking for a safe space where they feel heard, where it’s okay to be vulnerable.
You can ensure that we are there for every young person that enters this studio. Please give today at: http://bit.ly/NUA-Give