Support young people’s creative learning during COVID

Dear friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your family faring well during this unsettling time. Like many of us, you may be turning to culture and creativity for refuge and inspiration—immersing yourself in favorite works of art, literature, and drama, or engaging in your our own creative practices like playing music, writing poetry, drawing, or cooking. As this crisis unfolds, we are reminded that creativity and culture are vital to our survival and to our thriving, both as individuals and communities. That’s why I’m writing to ask you to support us in ensuring that the young people who most need it have access to culture and creativity.

The impacts of this pandemic will be felt particularly by New Urban Arts’ students. Their parents are more likely to be laid off or work jobs that can’t be done remotely, putting their families at greater risk. They will be the hardest hit by the loss of school-time education and other supports.

Meanwhile, the arts and humanities can help us understand situations that are not easy to understand. Even now, New Urban Arts is providing our young people with mentoring, resources, and ways to process what is happening. And, when it’s safe, we will again provide them physical space to learn and socialize. If you’re in the position to do so, I hope you’ll consider supporting New Urban Arts today.

To engage students remotely, we are hosting studio sessions on Google Classroom and mentoring students by phone and email. Additionally, last month, with the support of local businesses and donors like you, we began delivering art supplies to students at home.

During this pandemic and its economic fallout, I can’t help but think back, with concern, to 2008. Youth arts organizations still live in the shadow of that year. After the great recession, funders slowly but surely began turning away from youth arts, instead prioritizing college access, economic development, STEM, and financial literacy. These are all worthy causes, but the underlying message of this shift is that youth arts does nothing to prevent crises, and is therefore not worth funding.

You and I know that this is far from the truth. Art enables resilience and empathy, giving us a sense of meaning in the most difficult times. Furthermore, art is vital to recovery and healing. Once this crisis is over, places like New Urban Arts will breathe life back into our community. Your support today will sustain this space, providing young people with mentoring and creative tools to make sense of their experience.

Our community is strong and resilient. I’m encouraged to see that, here in Rhode Island, people like you are taking decisive action to support a broad range of organizations, including both basic needs organizations and cultural organizations whose damages might not be immediately apparent. Please join with me today in supporting and advocating for youth arts!

As a donor to New Urban Arts, you understand how important the arts are for all of us, particularly young people. The arts enable youth to develop socially and to explore their emerging sense of self. Together, despite this pandemic, we can continue to support young people’s creative development. Please support New Urban Arts today so that we can continue our work remotely and so that, when it’s safe to reopen our doors, we can do so without delay.

In gratitude,

Dan Schleifer