Name of Innovative Program:
Name of Innovative Program Lead:
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Built4Us is a youth based production company, specializing in music, graphic and literary works. We partner with youth serving organizations in Philadelphia to teach students the creative process through arts and psychoeducation. Our mission is to give youth creative outlets to express and process their narratives, combating developmental risks. Youth create products from this exploration via classes in: songwriting/production, visual arts, design-thinking, and writing (e.g. blogs, graphic novels).We provide projects where we create art with youth and use mixed media to study the literary and psychosocial aspects of a “narrative”. In 6-12 week modules youth examine the building blocks of a “narrative” and reflect on its use in 21st century media. Teaching artist and students use art as a method of process, response and critique. Art-making is the bedrock of our curriculum as we also use it to study the role of human emotions in everyday life and constructing narratives. We utilize class materials to study the biology of emotion and its effect on cognitive capacities. Partnering organizations, students and Built4Us work together to choose deliverables, e.g. a song or a song series accompanied by visuals. Our professional artist team creates market ready products from deliverables.
Creativity and Innovation:
Many young people have never learned to name the losses in their lives, becoming voiceless victims to injustices plaguing their neighborhoods. Further, building hope is near impossible while in a mental state of learned helplessness. The psychosocial components of our program give language and opportunities for youth to process loss in a culturally competent manner, removing the stigma of counseling. Youth will also be coached through a goal setting and attainment process through art. Gains in scholastic achievement should occur as the literary components of a narrative are central to our curriculum, addressing educational standards. Built4Us creates a double bottom line, addressing deficits in social-emotional/cognitive development while creating intellectual property; this process enables us to introduce youth to the creative economy while helping them discover agency through the arts. Our program progresses where most stop short; We merge gains in human capital with gains in financial capital for youth.
This idea sprang from my work as a teaching artist and consultant creating original music/theatre projects with youth starting in 2007, continuing to the present. I’ve worked with migrant latino farm-working students in Florida (through the non-profits ASTEP and EnFamilia as well as The University of Miami's Community and Educational Center for Well-Being) and youth in Philadelphia plagued by poverty (through The Salvation Army and Temple University's Center for Bioethics, Urban Health, and Policy among others), helping them put their lives and aspirations into original art including films and musicals. Built4Us creates projects in a collaborative fashion allowing youth and the adults who serve them to find new methods of partnership and engagement through art and design-thinking. These environments often spark small yet significant cultural adjustments within organizations, strengthening communication and connections with youth in ways that allow both parties to create meaningful relationships.
Built4Us was funded this year by Mobilize.org through a seed investment grant and fellowship, allowing me to no longer work this project as a consultant. The fellowship comes with a year of mentoring and a membership at Impact Hub Philly, a co-creative working space for social entrepreneurs, activist and dreamers. Mobilize is also actively connecting me with arts programs that target youth mental health including The Weil Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. A variety of organizations in the city of Philadelphia support my work as a teaching artist and youth mentor including The Philadelphia Children’s Foundation, Junior Music Executives, The Salvation Army, The Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, The New Freedom Theatre, and Need in Deed. Lastly, our professional artist team has performed or recorded with artist like John Legend, T.I., Andre 3000 and Robin Thicke.
What we do can be replicated anywhere there is significant cultural capital, loving adults and a trauma informed mindset that honors youth culture and all of its eccentricities. One key aspect of replication is our pending incorporation as a private operating foundation. This will allow us to run programming, receive funding from grantmakers to accomplish our mission, and hold an endowment. The endowment would receive all profits and pay out royalties owed youth copyright owners and the partnering organization. This ongoing process enables both grant/donor money or generated income to fund trainings, or training materials, for our exploration of narratives and arts education to any organization free of charge. It also provides them a potential revenue stream. Money collected on behalf of youth would be in established trust or college funds, with all financial records (including those not pertaining to youth) open to the public.
With this grant we can provide the following outcomes: -Curriculum evaluation by mental health, social work , and education professionals-Pre and post surveys of youth participants and partnering organizations-Surveys/Program evaluations from Built4Us teaching artist -Journal/Art portfolio samples from all youth participants-Youth musical project consisting of 6-10 original songs-Youth E-book collection of photos, poems and film clips, limited physical printing accompanied with articles to replace film clips-Community performance/presentation of work by select youth participants and adults of Built4Us