Beginning next month, there will be some new places to hang out after school where kids can't get into trouble. The News on Six has learned about a partnership between the Justice Department and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Painter Byron Shen believes the arts provide a vital outlet for the problems and demands teenagers face today. That's why the Holland Hall art teacher is eager to help with a new arts program involving several Tulsa agencies. Though the program targets at-risk youth, any student ages 14 through 18 can take part.
Shen says painting, music, acting and other art forms help teenagers work through tough issues of identity, competition, and expression. "Sometimes it's realized in a different language," he said, "a visual language that verbally they can't articulate to their parents or teachers that gets expressed that way. So those avenues and those outlets are vital to someone who is pre-adolescent to adolescent."
Tulsa's Arts and Humanities Council will lead the program in collaboration with Youth Services of Tulsa, Tulsa Parks Department and other agencies. Classes will meet for two hours, twice a week, after school or evenings. Students may choose one of several arts disciplines, including creative writing, African dance, painting or video. The only requirements are an interest in the arts and the commitment to stick with it.
Educators say there's plenty of research supporting the importance of arts education for all children. But Tulsa's Arts Council says the Justice Department is interested in testing other benefits. "The arts are really being shown to be a great delinquency prevention tool and a tool to help kids succeed in life in general, so this is a demonstration project for the Office of Justice," said Arts Council director Pam Hodges.
Shen hopes the program attracts teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. "That diversity and inclusion are important to me, because the more diverse the student body that I have, the more resources we have to create art," he explained. Art, they hope, will create confidence, pride and understanding during a challenging stretch of life.
There'll be a kick off for the new program Thursday night at Central High School from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Students will be able to meet the teachers and find out more about the program