Young artists, powerful advocates 

On Friday, April 22, 10 youth arts groups came together for the second Youth Arts Action Retreat. The result: young artists are owning their roles as advocates.

In a workshop led by Vanessa Snow of Hyde Square Task Force and Corey Depina of Zumix, youth participants learned about the local power dynamics in their neighborhoods and communities. Through several creative exercises, youth learned how to tap into those power dynamics and how to better convince decision-makers to side with young people on important issues. Taking it from theory to practice, youth then drew up power-maps for local decision-makers, exploring what influencers would move elected officials to provide more opportunities for arts education for young people. By the end of the session, the confidence in the room swelled, and youth were ready to assert their own power in asking for what they need from their communities.

In the last session, the group of youth arts advocates learned about telling three stories for social change: the story of self, of us, and of now. Beyond the retreat, youth were encouraged to use their newfound storytelling skills to not only promote the work in their communities and arts organizations, but to use their art for social change.

And of course, there was an immediate opportunity to take action. Youth took time to design their own postcard petitions to the state legislature advocating for an increase in state arts funding through the Massachusetts Cultural Council budget.

Shout out to all the youth participants and staff from the 10 groups that brought their energy and creativity to the day: Hyde Square Task Force, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Artists for Humanity, Boston Children’s Chorus, Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, Cambridge Community Art Center, Company One, IBA Boston, Urbano Project, and Zumix.

Inspired by the retreat, the Department of Youth Services invited MASSCreative’s Senior Organizer, Tracie Konopinski, to run the same Storytelling Workshop with youth prior to visiting their legislators in the State House. During visits, youth invited legislators to the DYS Youth Arts Showcase on June 16 and shared how art has helped them redefine stereotypes and take ownership of their own narrative.  


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