When ArtsWestchester’s Arts Education staff saw that some of the frequent participants of its Teen Tuesdays and Thursdays program were outgrowing the program’s target age range, they wanted to find a way to keep participants engaged.
According to Jessica Cioffoletti, Director of Arts Education at ArtsWestchester: “We are dedicated to using the arts to help youth gain confidence, find their voices and prepare them for future success. We realize the importance of having a youth perspective in all of our education programs.”
Created last year, the Young Adult Leadership Council is an outgrowth of the Teen Tuesdays and Thursdays program. This program expands the department’s scope of reach from teen arts workshops to the development of professional skills.
Says Cioffoletti: “As their next step, Leadership Council members not only gain job readiness skills, but also help us to improve and evaluate current arts educational programming.” During the program, Council participants practice career- and college-readiness skills through the lens of arts programming and administration.
While Teen Tuesdays is free for anyone in the 11-17 age range to attend, the Council has an application process. Explains Cioffoletti: “The application process allows youth to get first-hand experience in interviewing and applying for a job.” Applications for the next cycle of the Council program are open through August 13.
Current members of the Council are 15 to 22 years old and represent a range of backgrounds from every community in Westchester County. Their artistic interests cover all areas as well: painting, sculpture, performance art, theater, dance, music and writing.
This past year, Council members were already tasked with adapting to a real-world challenge. The program, after initially planning to meet in person at ArtsWestchester’s building in White Plains, was shifted to a monthly Zoom format because of pandemic restrictions.
Still, each meeting has dealt with specific topics that are intended to build members’ skill sets. Guest presenters are local arts administrators, ArtsWestchester teaching artists, and other arts professionals. Topics have included how to write personal statements that introduce their goals and construct resumes. They also met with administrators of local arts programs to understand the goals and challenges many organizations face.
A liaison to the program, Alyssa Monte, provides council members with forums for interaction. Participants take advantage of these informal occasions to express their thoughts regarding specific programs, ask questions about their work and interact with fellow council members.
During the year, Council members also applied their newly-acquired skills to evaluate Teen Tuesdays and Thursdays workshops and develop their own workshop proposals, which they will present to their Council peers. These workshop proposals are their culminating projects, which will be presented in person with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Reflecting on her experience with the program, council member Niara J. Flax says: “The Young Adult Leadership Council gave me a look into the vast work opportunities existing in the art world. It was encouraging to learn that there are so many areas in which your talents can shine, and then learn the skills to get to those roles.”
Joshua Schreier is a program evaluator for ArtsWestchester. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Communication and Technology from New York University.
A version of this article first appeared in the May issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.