Three New York based programs that have successfully guided thousands of young people toward productive lives will receive the prestigious 2008 Coming Up Taller Award.
Queens Museum of Art's Queens Teens, an initiative that engages area youth as museum docents, providing them with a glimpse of careers in the art world and the tools to succeed in the real world;
America SCORES, which combines soccer, community service and the study and performance of poetry to give young people an opportunity for physical activity and creative expression; and,
The TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble, which engages youth in rigorous musical theater training and performance activities.
Youth and adult representatives of the programs will travel to Washington, D.C., for an award ceremony on November 14, where they will accept the award.
Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The President's Committee partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to administer the program, which was founded in 1998.
The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America's young people, and provide them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities. The awards also highlight the contributions that historians, scholars, librarians and visual and performing arts make to families and communities by mentoring children. More than 320 nominations were received by the program in 2008.
As an art museum as deeply committed to the communities that exist outside its walls as they are to the work that hangs within, the Queens Museum of Art has always created innovative initiatives to engage their various constituencies. The Queens Museum of Art's Queens Teens program works with two area high schools and recruits students who have an interest in the arts or education, and who can benefit from a structured, nurturing after-school environment. Through weekly after-school workshops with museum staff and both emerging and established artists, the teens learn about the Museum's collections and exhibitions and develop the skills to interpret various forms of art. The training leads to paid assignments that include conducting weekend art workshops and public tours and serving as summer art camp counselors. The program also offers guidance on effective interaction with the museum's diverse publics, and demonstrates the potential for careers related to the arts.
Through the experience, the teens earn valuable self-confidence and gain a deeper understanding of their potential as students and productive citizens. Since its inception in 2001, more than 150 students have participated in the Queens Teens program, with more than 85 percent of the program's graduates enrolling in college, and a high percentage pursuing careers in art, design or fashion.
"With each new school year, the Queens Museum of Art is energized by a group of fresh-faced yet streetwise young adults with endless untapped potential," said Tom Finkelpearl, the museum's Executive Director. "At that first session in September, the Queens Teens are shy teenagers, but week by week, they become surer of themselves, more confident in their artistic abilities, and increasingly encouraged by their futures - be they in the arts or elsewhere. Seeing them blossom is one more indication of the positive power of the arts. The fact that we can employ the Queens Teens in the galleries is an extra bonus for the museum, the Teens, and the public who is able to interact with these fantastic young adults."
America SCORES was created by a Washington, D.C. teacher who believed that a combination of soccer and poetry could effectively engage at-risk students on a physical and intellectual level. Today, 200 public schools in 15 cities offer the program, which is overseen by public school teachers who are selected and trained by America SCORES representatives. For two afternoons a week during the fall, young people study the works of poets ranging from Emily Dickinson to Robert Louis Stevenson to Nikki Giovanni to understand the creative diversity of various styles. They are simultaneously given the opportunity to express their feelings through their own poems, a process that supports the development of reading and writing skills. On alternate days, they enjoy physical exercise and learn about the importance of teamwork by playing soccer.