We at Youth Arts Alliance firmly believe in the healing powers of high quality, trauma-informed arts programming. For at-risk youth, arts provide an outlet for addressing emotional and behavioral problems while developing new skills, talents, and forms of expression that can have a long-term positive therapeutic effect (Ezell and Levy, 2003). For youths facing trauma, the arts can help process painful experiences and foster resilience (Heise, 2014; Smilan, 2009). Creating art can strengthen problem-solving skills, autonomy, a sense of purpose, and social competence. Critically, art can reframe traumatic experience allowing youth to view themselves as survivors rather than victims (van Westerhenen and Frits, 2014).
Expressive arts-based programming also offers youth artists practices that invite emotion recognition and regulation, opportunities for self-discovery and amplification of their creative skills and talents. YAA focuses on collaborative arts experiences that foster relationships with their peers, supportive adults and recognition of their inherent strengths. YAA offers arts programming for the whole family, acknowledging that system involvement strains familial connection. Family members are introduced to the artistic skills and practices that youth artists participate in and share in the celebration of their loved ones’ creative achievements. We recognize the need and power of intergenerational and connective experiences with loved ones and community members. Youth artists who participate in programming often extend their knowledge to community members through public art, youth-led workshops and exhibitions and performances. YAA trains helping professionals and youth-serving organizations to support community resources in their understanding of expressive arts as a tool for connection, change and celebration.
How does creative expression make a difference in a young person’s life?
Because students learn:
- Artistic practices in a myriad of mediums
- Creative expression makes pathways for sharing their authentic selves and feelings
Because creative expression helps:
- Foster resilience
- Improve emotional self-efficacy
- Build more supportive and just communities