Starting a Youth Arts Council!

The Downriver Council for the Arts is building a Youth Arts Council! We were chosen with a few other organizations in Michigan to be included in Neutral Zone’s Youth Driven Spaces 2017-18 Immersion project, supported by the New Leaders at MCACA. 

We are reaching out to teens and adult mentors who would be interested in this program.

Increasing Youth Engagement & Leadership in Arts Organizations across Michigan

Objective:  Support arts-based organizations across Michigan to each build a youth advisory council. The aim of a youth advisory is to increase engagement and leadership by teens and to help them imagine new roles to plan projects, curate productions, promote events, recruit peers, fundraise, facilitate their own meetings and advise on organizational decisions.

Introduction -Why Provide Youth Greater Leadership Roles and Voice

When youth participate in high quality arts education opportunities they perform better academically, have higher rates of civic engagement and are more likely to pursue higher education – regardless of socioeconomic status. Arts education, however, is usually a discipline provided for or delivered to youth. Young people are taught the skills to perform music, create visual arts, write poetry or fiction, or put on a dance or theatrical performance. Research demonstrates that providing youth greater voice and leadership in the programs that serve them has many benefits. When youth have opportunities to make meaningful contributions in an organization their participation grows, as does their engagement, interest, and investment.

What is Neutral Zone & Youth Driven Spaces?

The Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor’s Teen Center got its start in 1998 and has grown into to a thriving, nationally recognized arts and leadership space that engages over 500 high school teens annually. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that teens thrive when they work in partnership with adults as active collaborators, decisions makers and problem solvers, and are recognized for their unique expertise. For the past seven years the Neutral Zone, in partnership with the Weikart Center for Program Quality and Michigan State University’s Community Evaluation Research Collaborative (MSU), has developed the Youth-Driven Spaces (YDS) model. YDS is designed to help organizations that serve older youth incorporate practices and strategies that use program, organization and governance roles as an opportunity to build youth proficiencies as well as increase their participation and engagement.

Increasing Youth Voice & Engagement in Community-based Arts Organizations

With a recently funded grant from MCACA’s New Leaders Council, Neutral Zone will provide intensive training and coaching to 4 arts organizations across Michigan to help them empower youth in new leadership roles. Through adopting YDS practice, organizations can support youth to imagine and plan projects, curate productions, promote events, recruit peers, fundraise, facilitate their own meetings, advise on broad organizational decisions, and even serve in governance roles. Each organization's council will develop initiatives based on youth participants' interests and ideas in alignment with the organization's mission.

Professional Development & Support for Youth Engagement

Each of the 4 sites establishes a group of 8-15 teens to serve on their advisory council, supported by 2-4 adult advisors (staff can be complimented with volunteers). To prepare and support the youth/adult team Neutral Zone engages advisory councils from each of the organizations in intensive training and coaching over a 11-month period. The goals of training and coaching are to 1) help teams explore and understand their organization’s mission and structure; 2) plan and implement youth-driven, mission-focused projects; 3) establish and sustain advisory council structures; and 4) explore ways for the council to be involved in higher order organizational and governance roles.